For several reasons journal and database subscriptions are
fundamentally different from book purchases:
- Books are generally one-off purchases that have no future implications,
journals imply a continued engagement.
- Journal subscriptions imply expenditures at least ten times bigger than
those for book purchases. For many years annual subscription prices have been
increasing with 8% or more - obviously library budgets haven't.
- Journal subscriptions need to be pre-paid. Subscribing in the middle of
the year gives you only partial value for the full year's price paid.
- Each publisher has its own business models, which makes standardization
of access options (e.g. the number of archival years) a virtual impossibility.
Changes of publisher, incl. take-overs and mergers, can negatively impact access to backfiles.
- Big deals - i.e. online access to hundreds or thousands of journals of
the same publisher or aggregate portal - generally offer substantial
interesting opportunities for broadening the overall availability level to the
scientific literature, at least if a
sufficient part of these journals are focused on the 'right' subject.
But they also come with restrictions such as the need for multiple year
contracts and 'no cancellation' clauses, dependence on decisions of
consortium partners, loss of access to backfiles upon cancellation, etc.
- Individual journal articles are generally easy to obtain at moderate cost
from other networked national and international partners, so infrequently used
journals need not necessarily be 'must have' titles.