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Journal of Documentation

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The purpose of this article is to introduce a theoretical framework and approach for studying the evaluation and decision-making practices through which academic librarians attempt to reduce the cost of electronic journal subscriptions – an organizational practice known as the unbundling of big deal journal packages.


The article presents a literature-based conceptual analysis of several fields to delineate the elements of the practice of unbundling of big deal journal packages. Beyond analysing the prior literature, the discussion is supported by empirical findings from a pilot study on the topic conducted by two of the article's authors.


The main finding of the article is that the unbundling of big deal packages is a case of what sociologist refers to as decision-making in a social context. By reviewing previous studies, the article identifies the social and material elements constitutive of this practice. This, in turn, allows to develop questions and concepts for future research on the topic and to position it as an area of inquiry within the field of information behaviour/practices.


The article is the first attempt to conceptualize the unbundling of big deal journal packages by highlighting its phenomenological status as a type of information practice. In addition, the article proposes a research approach for studying this type of information practice by drawing on insights from the information behaviour/practice literature and enriching them through practice theory contributions in organizational studies and sociology.



This work is supported by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Insight Grant #435-2019-0019, 2019-2022. We thank our anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful comments that helped strengthen this article.

Ivanov, A., Johnson, C. and Cassady, S. (2020), "Unbundling practice: the unbundling of big deal journal packages as an information practice", Journal of Documentation, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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