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HighWire Press Provides Open Packaging to Online Journal Subscribers
Posted On December 8, 2003
Academic librarians across the country have long complained that the bundled subscription packages from large scholarly publishers and database aggregators force them to subscribe to journals they don't want to get good prices on ones they do. (See Paula Hane's NewsBreak, "Cornell and Other University Libraries to Cancel Elsevier Titles," Smaller publishers, such as those from scholarly societies, have often suffered as library budgets are absorbed by payments to large publishers. Now HighWire Press, the librarian-led journal aggregator from Stanford University, has launched a new subscription program called Shop for Journals ( Initiated by a group of scholarly society publishers participating in HighWire, the new pricing/subscription model offers an alternative to the "Big Deal" packages and allows librarians to create their own packages using tiered pricing tied to library type.

At launch, the service encompassed 57 journal titles from 25 scholarly society publishers, but a HighWire Press representative said that currently 50 publishers are watching the program closely and 10 are expected to join the program by summer 2004. See the box for a list of the participating publishers.

Michael Clarke, senior managing editor of the American Academy of Pediatrics and leader of a task force of 50 HighWire publishers, led the Shop for Journals project, which began some 6 months ago. Clarke described it as "the gateway to something we are calling an ‘Open Package.'" Under the Shop for Journals Open Package, librarians can pick and choose the titles they want, obtain the correct pricing for their type of institution from a five-tier system, and purchase through a simple series of steps.

After selection, librarians can send a custom package of titles and prices to their regular subscription agent, contact publishers directly, or subscribe through HighWire's preferred serials agent, Otto Harrassowitz KG. The last option allows libraries to access their new online subscriptions immediately after confirmation of the order, usually a 2-day process. Although HighWire does offer its own serials agent, it also supplies direct contact information and links to each publisher. Bonnie Zavon, HighWire's public relations representative, assured us that the links will deliver subscribers to people who can handle their accounts efficiently. The system can also supply e-mail copies of HighWire selections to whatever subscription agent a librarian designates.

To join the program, librarians first identify their institution type from one of five broad categories: academic, medical, public/nonprofit, government, and corporate. After selecting a broad category, librarians must identify with specific subcategories, usually reflecting size, governance, and service orientation, to identify into which of five pricing tiers their institution falls. For example, under the academic category, subcategories consist of primary/secondary school or Head Start program (Tier 1); community, technical or Associates level colleges (Tier 2); undergraduate or masters level college/university (Tier 2); nursing school or allied health training program (Tier 2); doctorate-granting research university (Tier 3); medical or pharmacy school (Tier 3); private, nonprofit research institution (Tier 3); state-wide academic institution (Tier 4); private, nonprofit research organization or healthcare network (Tier 4); and consortia of academic libraries (Tier 5).

Once the tier is identified, librarians can select the journals that interest them and see tier-specific price statements for each journal title. Multisite or multi-institutional operations, such as consortia, usually require direct negotiation with publishers. Zavon indicated that some journal prices do not change from tier to tier. Most users would fall into Tier 3. Pricing information also provides a set of answers to standard questions serials librarians might ask, e.g., terms and conditions, overseas availability, etc.

Publishers in the Shop for Journals program have agreed to abide by standard Guidelines for Internet Access to Journals for their institutional subscribers. The Guidelines define Internet access, institutions, authorized users, subscription access, copyright, authorized use (e.g., downloading, interlibrary loan, accessibility, etc.), restrictions, authentication, archiving, technical access, warranty, purpose, severability, and dispute resolution. HighWire also offers a variety of tools to ease the serial librarian's tasks, e.g., usage reports across all journals and central maintenance of IP addresses for multiple journals.

"We are excited to participate in this collaborative effort, as we recognize that shrinking library budgets are increasingly going to the ‘easiest' buy, rather than the highest quality titles," says Meg McGough, marketing manager of the Histochemical Society. "With the wealth of research by the scholarly community that is hosted at HighWire today, we strongly support this group effort to simplify the purchasing process for each of our independent society journals."

Scholarly society publishers may have led the charge on this new development from HighWire, but they would have had a sympathetic ear from HighWire's director, Michael Keller. Along with heading HighWire, Keller also serves as Stanford's university librarian. In that role, staff assured us, he has never allowed a "Big Deal" contract to replace his library's authority to select journals title-by-title for the 13 campus libraries under his control.

Begun in 1995, HighWire Press produces online versions of 346 peer-reviewed journals in partnership with scholarly societies, university presses, and commercial publishers. It focuses on clinical and biomedical literature. It also hosts free, full-text science sources. As of the beginning of December, it carried 641,902 free full-text articles and 1,647,846 total articles.

Participating Publishers
American Academy of Pediatrics (3 titles), American Association for Clinical Chemistry (1 title), American Physiological Society (15 titles), American Psychiatric Publishing (7 titles), American Public Health Association (1 title), American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (3 titles), American Society for Cell Biology (1 title), American Society for Clinical Nutrition (1 title), American Society for Nutritional Sciences (1 title), American Society of Hematology (1 title), American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (1 title), Biophysical Society (1 title), Canadian Medical Association (1 title), Endocrine Society (4 titles), Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (1 title), Histochemical Society (1 title), Lipid Research (1 title), Marine Biological Laboratory (1 title), New York Academy of Sciences (1 title), Project HOPE - The People-to-People Health Foundation (1 title), Radiological Society of North America (2 titles), Royal College of Psychiatrists (3 titles), Society for General Microbiology (4 titles), and Society for Leukocyte Biology (3 titles).

Barbara Quint was senior editor of Online Searcher, co-editor of The Information Advisor’s Guide to Internet Research, and a columnist for Information Today.

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