Economics and Usage of Digital Libraries: Byting the BulletSkip other details (including permanent urls, DOI, citation information)
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5.7 Transition from PEAK to ScienceDirect
Given this, there was a push by some PEAK participants for a continuation of the generalized model in the commercial ScienceDirect service. At Elsevier this was extensively discussed. While it would not be immediately possible to switch to a system where one "permanently" buys access at the article level, over the long term it was certainly possible to consider doing this. There was a sense that this "permanent" access gave the libraries a sense of ownership not otherwise present in a license arrangement. Yet, to date we have not adopted the generalized model, preferring other ways of giving full access to the database and providing long-term access rights.
The obvious question is: why not adopt this model? The reason is that from the Elsevier perspective this model runs counter to what we would like to achieve. Our goal is to give people access to as much information as possible on a flat fee, unlimited use basis. Our experience has been that as soon as the usage is metered on a per-article basis, there is an inhibition on use or a concern about exceeding some budget allocation. The generalized model, although offering access to the whole database, is in the end simply a transaction model where the cost of the transaction has been discounted in return for non-refundable prepayment. It is a hybrid — a subscription-based transactional system. It also carries with it increased costs of selling, educating and general marketing to get to the point that a flat rate, all-you-can-use system automatically offers.
What, then, did we do in the transition from PEAK to ScienceDirect for those making the transition? We gave all PEAK customers, as thanks for participating in the experiment and as a way of continuing the transition, unlimited access through 2001 to all titles in the database, but with fees based solely on subscribed content in 1999. For some of the smaller institutions this was an incredibly generous offering. For all schools except Michigan (which would have "earned" a large free transaction allowance in any case) it was a significant improvement over either a normal ScienceDirect license or a PEAK generalized subscription model. What will happen after 2001? We plan to have new pricing plans in place that will make a continuation of access to the whole database possible for the former PEAK — and all other ScienceDirect — accounts.
Also in the transition, in order to address some of the "ownership" concerns, we formalized an electronic archiving and long-term access policy. This policy guarantees that guarantees that we will assume responsibility for the long-term availability of the archive of the Elsevier Science-owned electronic journals and provide access to that archive on an ongoing basis for all years for which an electronic subscription was purchased. Implementation of this policy continues to evolve, including exploration of deposit arrangements with various major libraries worldwide and special consideration of how to accommodate journals which are sold (i.e., for which the publishing contract is lost or are otherwise no longer currently published by Elsevier). We believe that in the long run these policies will result in better certainty of access and a more scalable system than tracking individual institutional purchases forever at the individual article level, as the generalized model requires.