To Buy Or Not To Buy, That Is The Question.

Today I struggle with the question of whether to continue purchasing an expensive periodical or rely on the electronic version that is available on WestlawNext.

This issue comes up frequently enough -- should we continue to buy the more stable print format, or should we rely on the access that we have through our other online subscriptions (like Lexis & Westlaw)? I find that a lot of the print periodicals have duplicative coverage on one or both of the major databases.

The particular print periodical in question had a price increase of 19% from 2012 to 2013. It went from nearly $2100 per year to $2400 per year. It's a great resource, in theory, but it is not widely used in print.

The problem with relying on the online databases for access is that material comes and goes so frequently. The resource could be available one day, and then with no prior notice, there may be a dispute with the licensing agreement, and the resource is pulled from the database. Or, more recently, many print publishing houses have closed or been sold, so the availability of the material is in flux.

In addition, there are issues with library archiving. To date, the print version is still the most stable version. If a library buys in print, the library always owns the material and can archive the material as the library sees fit. If a library signs a licensing agreement with a database, generally, that database will have a substantial archive of past issues. But as soon as the library decides to end its subscription to the database, there goes the archive along with it. Most database licensing agreements give the right to access information, but these licensing agreements, generally, do not give full ownership rights of the material.

Electronic access and licensing agreement issues are still in transition. We are all trying to understand the implications and what it means for collection development. In the present case, I will recommend that we cancel the expensive print periodical in favor of electronic access on WestlawNext because the print periodical is not widely used by our patron base. This will free up more money to buy monographs that are not available electronically.


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