On Sunday, June 25, 2017, the Acquisitions Committee of the Continuing Resources Section held its annual Forum. Caroline Mills of Furman University presented “Without a Parachute: Converting to Unmediated Pay-Per-View Access to Articles Online.” Ms. Mills was looking for a solution to rising subscription costs and surveyed two groups of which Furman is a member: the Carolina Consortium, comprising 187 academic institutions in North and South Carolina; and the Oberlin Group, comprising 80 small, private, liberal arts institutions. Her query was whether they offer mediated or unmediated searches to their faculty and students. With a 26% response rate from the Carolina Consortium and a 28% response from the Oberlin group, Ms. Mills found that 75% per cent of Carolina Consortium respondents offered neither, and over 50% of Oberlin Group respondents offered neither.
Furman is a private institution with 2,700 students and a $1.8 million budget. Ms. Mills found that she was investing $170,000 on 60 individual titles. Furman had begun a mediated pay-per-view model in 2008, which gave access to all the journals by that publisher. However, staff time involvement grew from 3 hours per week in 2010 to eight hours per week in 2013 during peak periods. Therefore, Ms. Mills investigated Get it Now, a Copyright Clearinghouse product, which offers minimal intervention, an intuitive interface, and fast turn-around. Limits can be set on access and number of requests. Ms. Mills set the interface up to allow access to current Furman students and faculty only, to allow no more than five requests a day, and to disallow duplicate requests in a 30-day period. One can also set spending limits, but Ms. Mills chose not to do so. There are also limits on maximum orders per student per time period, but Ms. Mills did not institute those either. The duplicate order limits were very helpful in that students would often request the same article four or five times per semester.
Get it Now works with the EBSCO link resolver to place custom links in the discovery layer. All the students need to know is their email account. It works smoothly and seamlessly, and turn-around time is usually under 20 minutes, with the average being 2–3 minutes. The soft launch was May 1, 2013, with an official launch of July 1, 2013. On May 5, a professor asked what had changed, since he had sent out a list of articles, and received them all so quickly.
For fiscal year 2016, Ms. Mills spent $95,952 on pay-per-view access. 3,998 articles were purchased, with 865 unique journal titles. Eleven percent of the titles comprised 56% of the use. Subscriptions to those 98 titles would have cost $409,212, with a per use average cost of $234. Subscriptions to all the titles used would have cost $3,725,983, or a per use average cost of $932. Also, 921 unique users (21% of which were faculty) purchased 3,608 unique articles. Of those, 374 (41%) requested only one article; 453 (49%) requested between two and ten articles; and 94 (10%) requested more than ten articles, with the top request being 56 articles.
At the beginning of 2016, Ms. Mills cancelled 29 additional underperforming journals from a single publisher, saving about $30,000, and added that publisher’s journals to the link resolver as pay-per-view. Ms. Mills only spent $96 on articles from those journals in the rest of the fiscal year.
The challenges Ms. Mills has faced include getting the custom link for the link resolver; managing multiple requests for the same article by the same student, which cost $3,000 last year; and resisting the temptation to “just turn everything on.”
Ms. Mills sees further analysis of underperforming journals in the future, as well as negotiating one-time purchases of back files when available. It is also hard to predict future costs, although in four years only one journal subscription would have cost less than the pay-per-view access. Ms. Mills concluded that pay-per-view was an excellent alternative for individual subscriptions, saving money and providing better service for the faculty and students at Furman.