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Re: Quality of Service

I am not sure whether I am proposing a new thread or starting a new one
but I am suggesting that this message which has been on some lists may be
of interest to readers concerned with license provisions. I have
permission from Rollo Turner to propose inclusion. My own view is that
there are a number of factors at work here and two of them are as follows:

1. For many years publishers and agents have been fighting over the latest
date by which the money paid by libraries to agents can be delivered to
publishers in order to be certain that the first issue of the following
year reaches paid subscribers. In my time I would insist that the money
was actually received by the publisher before the subscription was
registered whereas agents wanted to give post-dated cheques operative from
the last day of the year.

2. Again in my time the people who handled subscriptions tended to view
anything electronic as some extra frill rather than an intrinsic part of
the business and could not appreciate that the electronic version might be
regarded as the main version by the customer. Of course it was once a
frill and has only gradually become series.

Obviously commitment to service must include giving paid customers access.
The letter follows.


ASA Association of Subscription Agents and Intermediaries 
Rollo Turner, Secretary General 
10 Lime Avenue, High Wycombe,
Buckinghamshire, HP11 1DP, UK 
Tel: +44 (0)1494 534778 
Fax: +44 (0)1494 534778 

Dear Editor,

Grace periods for electronic journals subscription renewals

This year has seen a new problem emerge in the administration of
subscriptions. Some customers who renewed their subscriptions to a printed
journal with an electronic version as part of the subscription found their
access rights terminated on December 31st - even though they had renewed
and paid through their agent in good time. This in spite of the fact that
both customer and agent had followed all the publishers' instructions on
renewals and provided the necessary information. The paper subscription
was unaffected.

It appears that for a number of publishers there is insufficient time to
update the electronic access system before December 31st after updating
the subscription system once the renewal has been received. This is the
case even when the renewals are automated and provided electronically.

This is probably just another teething problem with electronic journals
whose administration is still quite new to all of us. However it does seem
as if we could all learn a thing or two from the print world where this
problem also occurs. Here the answer is to 'grace' the first few issues of
each year to enable customers to receive continuity of service and the
publisher to catch up with the large numbers of subscriptions all coming
in during the last part of the year or early in the new year. For
electronic journals gracing the first few 'issues' is relatively easy and
what is more should cost little or nothing (unlike print where the first
few issues of the year had greater print runs and resulted in issues being
posted to non-renewals). With electronic journals there are no costs of
distribution, all it requires is the cut off date being changed from 31
December to 28 February for example. Since the overwhelming majority of
subscribers do renew each year the number receiving content without paying
will be small (just as it was for paper).

This would actually save us all money and time. There would be fewer
claims relating to access termination than previously which would result
in far fewer calls and letters from agents and customers, to all of which
the publisher must respond. As a result there would be far more happy
subscribers who could use the time saved to concentrate on providing their
service to users thereby helping to increase usage. And agents would have
less work to do at a busy time of the year resulting in better service to
their customers and suppliers. A win, win, win situation! All it takes is
a two-month grace period for subscribers on renewals to electronic

The ASA is therefore calling on all publishers to examine their systems
and see if they could introduce this change for the coming subscription
year - you will save on administration and your customers will much
appreciate it! The ASA will be pleased to publicise such good practise by
putting up all publishers gracing their electronic journals renewals on
our Website (www.subscription-agents.org)


Rollo Turner
Secretary General
Association of Subscription Agents and Intermediaries


Anthony Watkinson
14, Park Street, Bladon, Woodstock,
Oxon, England OX20 1RW
phone +44 1993 811561 and fax 1993  810067