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    6.2 Access options offered

    To choose which access products (and their prices) to offer PEAK participants, we balanced a complex set of considerations. These included the desire to study innovative access options, the desire to create substantial experimental variation in the data, and the need to entice institutions to participate. Hunter (this volume) gives a fuller account of these deliberations. In the end, participating institutions in the PEAK experiment were offered packages containing two or more of the following three access products:

    1. Traditional Subscription: Unlimited access to the material available in the corresponding print journal.

    2. Generalized Subscription: Unlimited access (for the life of the project) to any 120 articles from the entire database of currently priced content. Articles are added to the generalized subscription package as users request articles that were not already otherwise paid for, until the subscription is exhausted.[5] Articles selected for generalized subscriptions may be accessed by all authorized users at that institution.

    3. Per Article: Unlimited access for a single individual to a specific article. If an article is not available in a subscribed journal, nor a generalized subscription, nor are there unused generalized subscription tokens, then an individual may purchase access to the article, but only for his or her use (for the life of the project).

    The per-article and generalized-subscription options allow users to capture value from the entire corpus of articles, without having to subscribe to all journal titles. Once the content is created and added to the server database, the incremental delivery cost (to the publisher and system host) is approximately zero. Therefore, to create maximal value from the content, it is important that as many users as possible have access. The design of the pricing and bundling schemes affect both how much value is delivered from the content (the number of readers) and how that value is shared between the users and the publisher.

    Generalized subscriptions may be thought of as a way to pre-pay (at a discount) for interlibrary loan requests. One advantage of generalized subscription purchases is that the "tokens" cost substantially less per article than the per-article license price. Institutions did, however, need to purchase tokens at the beginning of a year and thus bore some risk. There is an additional benefit: unlike an interlibrary loan, all users in the community have ongoing unlimited access to the articles obtained via generalized subscription token. To the publisher, generalized subscriptions represent a committed flow of revenue at the beginning of each year, and thus shift some of the risk to the users. Another benefit to the publisher, as noted by Hunter (this volume), is that that they open up access to the entire body of content to all users. Generalized subscriptions thus offer one method for the publisher to increase user value from the already produced content, and which creates an opportunity to obtain greater returns from the publication of that content.

    Table 6.1: Access models
    Institution ID Group Traditional Generalized Per Article
    5, 6, 7, 8 Green X X
    3, 9, 10, 11, 12 Red X X X
    13, 14, 15 Blue X X
    NOTE: An "X" indicates that this option was available to the institutions listed in that row of the table.

    Participating institutions were assigned randomly to one of three different experimental treatments, which we labeled as the Red, Green and Blue groups. Institutions in every group could purchase articles on a per-article basis. Those in the Green group could purchase generalized subscriptions, while those in the Blue group could purchase traditional subscriptions. Institutions in the Red group could purchase all types of access. Twelve institutions participated in PEAK: large research universities, medium and small colleges and professional schools, and corporate libraries. Table 6.1 shows the distribution of access models and products offered to the participating institutions.