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

3.10.6 Educational discounts

Educational institutions would like to see bolder discounting of electronic products for educational use, and believe that this would help to promote the use of electronic publications among students who would then emerge into the wider world as proponents of these new types of information access. It is considered that this should apply both to base (single unit) subscriptions and to network subscriptions. It is recognised that publishers may wish to make a distinction between research use and student (teaching/learning) use, with lower rates for the latter. A regime in which use statistics are automatically collected according to certain categories is therefore envisaged and it is felt that technologies (for example, the latest forms of "smart cards") now becoming available would make this feasible and not particularly onerous.

The role of academic libraries can extend far beyond the immediate user community of their own institution, and this too can raise problems of charging policy. To an increasing extent, universities are now offering services to external (business) clients and it is understood that, if reliable use statistics can be collected, this could be further grounds for differential charging.

Complications can however arise because some academic researchers themselves may operate both in the public (university) and the private (commercial) sector. While far from universal, it is now not uncommon for some university teachers to be also involved with a commercial company formed to exploit the results of research. In these cases, it may be very difficult to determine whether a particular piece of investigation is commercial or not. It is also quite common in the medical field for doctors to work both in the university, and in the National Health Service (and not infrequently, in private practice also). For these, use restrictions based on institutional affiliation can be awkward, especially as sometimes the decision about whether a particular employee should be regarded as "NHS" or "university" may be fairly arbitrary, depending on whose turn it is, as between the two funding parties, to fund the next appointment. Alternatively, a situation could emerge where two people in the same team find themselves in different positions with respect to right of access to a data source which may be equally available to them both from a technical point of view. This is a situation which is, in practice, almost impossible to manage effectively, and one which can almost be said to invite abuse.

When all these possible special factors have been enumerated, it is necessary to revert to the traditional expenditure approach to which libraries have long been accustomed, namely, that for products which are considered to be of special value to their user community, libraries have always preferred to pay a flat-rate "up-front" charge for unlimited use, because this enables costs to be predicted, controlled and allowed for.

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