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Licensing terms encountered: one librarian's resposes

The Biology library at Princeton has encountered the following terms for
e-journals when renewing this years' subscriptions:

First group (site licenses available)

1.  Electronic version provided free with print, no increase in
subscription price. (Some professional societies, some University presses,
and, surprisingly, some of the most expensive Elsevier titles) My
response, of course, has been to gladly accept.

2.  Electronic version provided free with print, but substantial increase
in subscription price (10 to 25%), presumably to cover the cost.
(Springer, Wiley) My response, in general, is to consider for each title
whether we would do better to drop the subscription altogether. (I did, in
fact, discontinue a substantial number of titles from each of these two
publishers. A list of our cancellations is available at

3. Electronic version provided at a surcharge. (ACS, Many smaller
publishers) My response, in each case, has been to determine if the
additional access was worth the cost. When the print cost was already high
in terms of the use the journal gets at this library, I generally said no.
When the print cost was reasonable in terms of the use, I generally said

4. A choice between electronic access at a slightly reduced price, print
at the usual price, and the combination at a slightly higher price.
(Blackwell, some smaller publishers.)  My response is that this is what I
like to see. Depending on use and cost, I picked the appropriate one of
the three options -- generally either electronic only, or electronic plus
print; the savings on one pay for the added costs of the other.

4a. There was also a variation on this, where the cost for the electronic
only was the same as that for print only, but with a surcharge for both. I
have so far chosen print only.  If the surcharge for getting both were low
enough and the journal valuable enough, I would consider getting both.
Getting electronic only is still an experiment here, and I would prefer to
experiment where I can find some cost savings. Like most academic
librarians, I remain convinced that publication in electronic format is or
should be less expensive than in print.

5. Electronic access available only under a contract encompassing all the
journals from that publisher to which the university subscribes. (Most
Elsevier journals and almost all Academic Press journals). This requires
not just my decision, but a library-wide consensus. As I understand it, we
are not willing to sign such a contract until the terms are much more
financially equitable to us than what we have seen so far.

Second group, (Only limited licenses available)

1. Free access, but limited to one or a few workstations. My response is
to arrange the access, primarily to get articles when the printed copy is
at the binders, but usually not to publicize it, because I don't think
this restricted access is worth publicizing. The main point of electronic
versions of journals is their wider availability on campus.

2. Extra cost, for access to one or a few workstations. My response is to
say no, and to try to explain to the publisher why this is inappropriate.
(The only time I have said yes so far has been Science Online, where the
cost was minimal.)

3. Extra cost, for access to one building or class c internet address. My
response is to say no, and to try to explain to the publisher why this is
inappropriate. Princeton is a relatively small and compact campus for a
research university, but even so the biologists are located in at least 8
different buildings, with a similarly wide range of internet addresses.

4. No library or institutional license available at all, or available only
at a prohibitive cost of several times the institutional print price.
(Cell Press, Current Biology, Nature) The only thing I need to decide here
is how to protest, and how best to involve the faculty; I have probably
not done enough in this regard.

Although all of this reflects my personal view, not necessarily the
official position of this University, the other subject selectors here
seem to have been making their independent decisions along very similar

-- David Goodman 
Biology Librarian
Princeton University Library
phone: 609-258-3235 
fax: 609-258-2627