Saturday, March 15, 2008

Open Access: Roles for the Aggregators

There are important roles for vendors of aggregated databases, such as EBSCO and ProQuest, in transitioning to open access, and in a fully open access environment.

One role is increasing access to the journal's contents through indexing.

Another, related role is supporting the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). EBSCO is listed on the DOAJ's Sponsors page; CSA ProQuest and Swets are DOAJ members.

Another role for aggregators is to contribute to the economics of open access publishing; if a journal is open access, there is no reason why it cannot also be included in an aggregated database, for a reasonable fee to help support the journal.

This is a win-win-win situation. For the aggregator, this is added content at extremely reasonable fees; for the publisher, economic support and additional impact; for the library subscribers, more content accessible through one familiar, well-developed tool with lots of support such as online help guides and training.

Kevin Haggerty from the Canadian Journal of Sociology recently mentioned that EBSCO is continuing to provide support for the journal after its transition to open access, including continuing to provide electronic access to back issues, and economic support for including current content. Kudos to EBSCO for a sensible move here!

According to the EBSCO website, EBSCOhost databases are the most-used, premium online information resources for tens of thousands of institutions worldwide, representing millions of end-users.

If EBSCO were to contribute one dollar for every institutional subscriber to an open access journal for including contents in an EBSCO database, this would mean at least $10,000 in revenue for the journal.

If a journal were to sign non-exclusive contracts with two aggregators at this rate, this would mean at least $20,000 in revenue annually for the journal.

These amounts are meant to be merely suggestive. For a small, highly specialized journal that currently has very limited circulation, these figures may be high; for a larger journal with a high circulation, higher figures may be in order.

Another way to look at the figures: a fee of $10 per institutional subscriber to go to the open access journal, would mean an annual revenue stream of a minimum of $100,000 per journal, assuming the low end of EBSCO's institutional subscriber base.

Librarians - could libraries live with an average per-journal cost of $10 per year?

Regardless of the specific amount, non-exclusive participation in an aggregated database, along with open access, might be worth considering for the open access journal. This win-win-win partnership could do a lot to ensure a smooth economic transition to open access.

This post is part of the Transitioning to Open Access Series.