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

3.10.5 Network fees

One of the factors which is clearly significant in developing the whole picture of income generation for electronic products is that of network fees, that is, the charging mechanisms imposed by publishers of electronic products when they are made available over networks rather than on single terminals. This is one factor on which libraries have had the opportunity to develop strong and clear views because of their experiences with CD-ROM publishers. It is now strongly felt that network fees ought to be based either on the number of simultaneous users or the number of designated terminals, but not both. An approach based on designated terminals is also considered to be substantially more restrictive. Therefore, libraries will tend not to prefer it, or alternatively to argue strongly that it should be charged at a significantly lower rate.

There is also a firm reaction against the use of fee banding, such as a fee for 10-20 simultaneous users etc. In practice, different publishers have tended to adopt bands of different widths, some, for example, proposing charges rising by multiples of eight users and others by multiples of ten. This has caused confusion and difficulties among subscribers, especially those (meaning most of them) who are wanting to run a range of different products over their network. It is now considered that publishers ought to be prepared to set a fee for the number of terminals or of designated users, as preferred by the subscribing organisation. Library subscribers serving institutions with multi-site operations also experience particular problems. Publishers of electronic products tend to make no allowance for the complex multi-site situations. They may license a product for all users on a given site, subject also to regulations on simultaneous access. However, every institution is different and it is impossible to make a general regulation defining what is meant by "a single site" since they can be separated by as little as a few hundred yards (so that the distance between the edge of one site and the edge of another site may be less than the distance across one of the two sites) or by many miles.

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