Guidelines for Selection of Electronic Publications: Summary of Issues
Electronic publications demand the consideration of a number of unique issues
in addition to the criteria traditionally applied to print publications. These
issues include the consistency of the electronic publication with any print
version, the number of issues covered by a subscription, updates and currency of
the online content, time limits on access to back issues, and the availability
of content published prior to the initial subscription date.
There is no standard pricing model for electronic publications. Therefore, it
is especially important that a selector carefully review the pricing model of
the publication under consideration. Pricing models may include separate content
and access pricing, one-time payments, ongoing obligations, per-use pricing,
introductory pricing, or pricing caps. Selectors may also find that some
publishers require the purchase of both the electronic and print versions of a
publication or of a bundle of titles. For every pricing model, selectors should
also consider the duration of the agreement or subscription, institution type
and size, the number of simultaneous users and authorized sites, and the
handling of backfiles.
Use and Functionality
Electronic publications require the assessment of browsing and searching
capabilities, options for printing and downloading and other additional features
such as multimedia and hyperlinks.
Unlike print publications, electronic publications may not be maintained on a
permanent basis. The issues here include the publisher's commitment to
archiving, the contents and form of any archive, fees and restrictions, and the
effect of cancellation or termination on the maintenance of the archive.
Electronic publications also present unique access issues. For any
e-publication, a selector should evaluate the method of validation, number of
simultaneous users, and the enforcement of limits on direct access.
Duplication and Substitution
A selector may need to decide whether to replace or duplicate a print
publication with an electronic one. Different issues apply to each decision. For
duplication, issues include whether the electronic publication is archived,
whether there is a need for different formats, and whether there is a cost
benefit to funding both formats. For substitution, issues include whether the
publication is archived, the reliability of the electronic format, the cost of
the respective versions, and the needs of different groups.
Licensing Terms and Conditions
Libraries usually license electronic publications (unlike print publications)
rather than purchasing them outright. For each license, the selector should
consider the allowed use, including the authorized users and sites; termination
of the subscription and limitations on cancellation; any limitations on use,
including interlibrary loan and course packs; and liability for unauthorized
use. The license should reflect the selector's understanding of the purchase or
This section contains a checklist of issues to aid selectors in their
assessment of electronic publications.
Special Considerations for E-Journals
This section for convenience gathers together those issues raised in other
sections that apply specifically to electronic journals. Some of these issues
include access and content, currency, back issues and backfiles, funding and
pricing, non-cancellation clauses and the duration of the agreement, and
Special Considerations for E-books
For convenience, this section gathers together issues associated with the
selection of electronic books. Issues include access, consistency with the print
version, the number of users, downloading and printing, pricing and bundling.
Approaches to Financing E-publications
This section presents information on different approaches to funding
Contacts and FAQs
This section contains information on whom to contact with specific questions
and some answers to frequently-asked questions. This section also offers tips to
help selectors find electronic publications and links to additional online
information on licensing and copyright issues.