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Re: ILL & Licenses

Ann Okerson asks:

  ............  We don't understand very well why our hybrid publishers
  forbid our printing the e-version as an ILL copy and have their licenses
  specify that we can only use the print for ILL.  The only answer I've
  secured on this particular matter is that "it just makes things too easy
  for the Library," which feels like an inadequate response.  If I didn't
  think highly of the publisher who advanced it to me, I would also have
  thought it a mean-spirited response!

Allowing printing from the e-version as an ILL copy makes things easy for
the library and the borrower, and thus helps eliminate the distinction
between owning and borrowing.  If printing from the e-version were
allowed, it would be easy to set up a system that would process ILL
requests automatically, printing the requested article, the label for the
envelope, and sticking the article in the envelope.  This would produce
rapid turnaround for ILL requests, cutting days or even weeks out of the
usual cycle (and cutting costs, as well), and thus diminishing the
attractiveness of subscribing to journals. 

Not allowing use of the e-version as an ILL copy might seem like a small
impediment, but the whole existing scholarly journal system manages to
survive because of such small imperfections.  The typical esoteric journal
in areas such as mathematics and computer science (the figures are
somewhat different for other disciplines) has a circulation of about 1000. 
On the other hand, the figures collected back in the 1970s by people like
King and Machlup show that the typical article is read (meaning going
beyond looking at the title page, but not necessarily studying the whole
paper in detail) by only a couple of hundred people.  The latest study by
King and Tenopir confirms that the readership figure has not changed much
in the last 20 years. 

This means that most of the copies of the article that are in libraries
never get read.  Hence, if we had a really efficient ILL system, with all
the libraries around the world hooked together, then even if the CONTU
"suggestion of five" were observed faithfully, fewer than 100 copies of
the journal would suffice to satisfy all needs.  Anytime a request was
received that would push a given library over the figure of five copies of
a particular article, it would be forwarded to another library that had
not reached its limit.  (Actually, one might need a bit more than 100
copies, since an occasional article that is extremely popular might
attract 1000 readers, say, which would require 200 copies of the entire
journal.  However, the point is that we would not need anywhere near 1000
subscriptions.)  What stops this from happening even in today's mostly
print system is that we is that the ILL system is not too efficient,
scholars still prefer to browse in their libraries, etc.  Publishers fear
apparently is that removing some of these impediments, as might happen
through printing of e-versions, might lead to increased cancellations of

Andrew Odlyzko
AT&T Labs - Research
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