[Prev Page] [Next Page ] [Contents]

The impact of electronic publishing on library services and resources in the UK

3.10.2 A library's view of pricing

Libraries may well be the dominant income source for the publisher of traditional scholarly publications. The library market is crucial for journals and certainly highly important for books. Most discussion of the electronic environment tends to assume that the consumer will nearly always be an individual in a corporate (university or company) setting. It is the university or company which provides the network links and the end user's terminal. The entirely independent scholar is likely to find that all access to electronic information will be charged per transaction or use. The revenue from his or her use will be a very small part of the income supporting the product.

As for libraries, they are likely to want to try to replicate some of the conditions they currently find favourable in respect of their access to hard copy products. They will want to pay fixed charges for "unlimited" access by members of the community they serve to the products which are most important for their work. Exactly what "unlimited" means when applied to access in the electronic environment could be difficult to define. For example, if access is governed by the issue of passwords, the member of a particular user community could use his or her institution's subscription to an electronic journal even if he or she were temporarily located off campus.

It could well be that there will be a major new role for libraries in negotiating such subscriptions and acting as the institution's co-ordinating agent for use of the subscription by individual beneficiaries. Outside the concept of a "subscription", payment by use for electronic publications in less demand is more likely to be the pattern. It is likely that present trends which imply the by-passing of libraries for this kind of activity will become stronger. Organisations such as the Colorado Association of Research Libraries (CARL) are already leading a tendency to open up opportunities for end user payment, for example by credit card. It is difficult to see how or indeed why libraries should resist this trend. It is almost certain that publishers will try to exploit this new situation to ensure that, in future, they achieve a better grip on the payment of royalties for single use of electronic products than they managed to do for single use of hard copy products.

[Prev Page] [Next Page ] [Contents]

[UKOLN Home Page] [Papers and Reports] [British Library Papers and Reports ]