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Re: Future of the "subscription model?"

>Let me respond very briefly (for once!) just to say that I think
>it will be very interesting to see how the subscription models
>for the new book aggregations from MUSE, JSTOR, OUP, etc. work
>out in the face of the challenge from PDA. Probably the two will
>coexist for a while, but I'm not sure for how long, or which one
>will triumph in the end. I suppose this partly depends on how
>much these vendors allow libraries to purchase only specific
>parts of the entire aggregations. Rick Anderson, what do you

With ebooks and ebook aggregations the whole concept of a
"subscription" gets really complicated. In some cases it means
paying iteratively for ongoing access to a relatively static fund
of content (in which case what you're really doing is paying for
an ongoing hosting service rather than paying preemptively for
future content that you may or may not really want). In some
cases it's more like a journal subscription, the difference being
that you're paying preemptively for future books rather than
future articles. In the former case, I think the model itself can
make perfect sense; what matters there is the price. In the
latter case, I don't see how it makes any more sense than a
journal subscription does.

Then there's something like the Hathi Trust partnership: as long
as my library continues to be a paying partner, we get greatly
enhanced access to an enormous database of public-domain books.
Does that constitute a "subscription"? I honestly don't know.

I can imagine models that fall between the cracks of those we
currently see in the marketplace, too. In all cases, the criteria
I would look for are value and efficiency: I want pricing that
provides good value and the promise of long-term sustainability,
and I want access models that minimize waste (by allowing me to
avoid buying stuff that my patrons don't need). But all of that
said, the monopoly control that publishers hold over high-demand
content means that I'll continue having to settle for nonsensical
access models until they either change models on their own, or
fiscal reality forces new models on them.

Rick Anderson
Assoc. Dean for Scholarly Resources & Collections
J. Willard Marriott Library
University of Utah