I have spent many years in document delivery and information standards, and I would like to share my observations on some simple steps publishers can take to support downstream revenue opportunities like document delivery.
We here at Reprints Desk spend an enormous amount of time maintaining our Title Authority File, which contains journal and book titles and all of their identifiers, royalty rates, and copyright owner/publisher. The Title Authority File drives our business, and we know that when a customer can see what an article is going to cost and learn what rights are associated with that article, they are more likely to purchase the article and generate a royalty payment for the publisher. It used to be that titles and royalty rates were updated once a year in January, but now we engage in constant maintenance to keep the Title Authority File up to date. The rise of Open Access has added to the complexity, especially hybrid OA titles.
Here are four simple things that publishers can take to help not just Reprints Desk and librarians, but all consumers of their content engage with it in a more productive manner.
1) Make more than your current list visible, including former titles and ceased titles. Across all publishers, about 30% of the orders we fulfill are for content that is ten years old and older. In fact, it is not unusual for us to receive and process orders for content published in the early 20th century or even earlier. Good science never goes out of date! We also have many law firm customers who need specific editions when they are doing research in support of a new intellectual property case. We capture and store title changes and the rightsholder changes on a regular basis so we can send royalty payments and usage reports to the correct publisher.
2) Display the ISSNs and ISBNs (all versions). Many publishers make it difficult to find, or do not display, the most basic identifier we have in our industry. And it would be very helpful for publishers to provide on their websites a downloadable list with titles and identifiers, along the lines of the annual price list that some publishers provide. This would make it easier for vendors to pay royalties to the appropriate publisher.
4) Engage with all market sectors. Academic librarians tell us that publisher subscriptions are always preferable, yet they are difficult to maintain and often make it hard to contain costs. The corporate view is about fast and seamless access: with employee costs as high as $200 per hour, pharmaceutical companies would rather have their scientists look for compounds than STM journal articles. Publishers who meet the customer at the price point that works for them, from rentals to a site license, are more likely to see increased usage, and librarians pay attention to usage reports. Reprints Desk is developing a new platform aimed at the small- and medium-sized market, which includes startups. Startups don’t usually have a budget for subscriptions, and they are often somewhat copyright naïve, so we are encouraging publishers to offer a variety of access options to drive usage and engagement for this hard to reach market.