Monday, September 12, 2005

Usage statistics as an economic factor in scholarly communications

Among the more compelling reasons for open access in scholarly communications are...the alternatives. One such is employing usage statistics as an economic factor, whether in purchase or cancellation decisions, or per-use pricing. To paraphrase Andrew Odlyzkow: usage based pricing can be very effective: the trouble is, you might not like the effects. Among the potential effects of usage-based pricing are disincentives to use, less diversity and more conservatism in scholasticism.

This theme is explored in detail in my book chapter (preprint, final copy): The implications of usage statistics as an economic factor in scholarly communications, forthcoming in "Usage Statistics of E-Serials" by David Fowler (editor). Published by the Haworth Press [2005]. Part of the "Haworth Series on Serials Librarianship and Continuing Resources".

"Usage statistics for electronic resources are needed, and highly desirable, for many reasons. It is encouraging to see the beginnings of quality, reliable usage data. This data can form the basis of economic decisions (selection and cancellation) that make a great deal of sense in the context of the individual library. However, the cumulative effects of such decisions could have serious implications for scholarly communications. For example, the journals of small research communities could easily be vulnerable to mass cancellations, and might fold. Fortunately, open access provides an alternative. The question of whether the impact of local decisions on scholarly communications as a whole should be taken into account in collection development policies is raised. The possibility that usage statistics could form the basis for a usage-based pricing system is discussed, and found to be highly inadvisable, as usage-based pricing tends to discourage usage.

This post reflects my personal opinion only and does not represent the opinions or policy of the BC Electronic Library Network or the Simon Fraser University Library.

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