Pay-Per-View, a Promising Model of E-articles Subscription For Middle/Small Sized Academic Libraries in Digital Age

Tian Xiao Zhang


In the digital age, individual articles rather than journals have become the fundamental units that researchers want. The utilization of the Pay-Per-View (PPV) model for e-articles as an alternative to journal subscription has become a great challenge to both journal providers and academic libraries. For libraries, “big deal” subscriptions, which conveniently provided library patrons with greatly expanded e-resources, have been consuming most of their budgets. As unbundling the big deal was considered as a cost efficient way to solve the serials crisis, some libraries began using PPV, the “little deal,” to try to keep the same level of accessibility to e-resources. In the spring of 2011, St. John’s University Library experimentally implemented PPV by purchasing Wiley-Blackwell tokens after unbundling its package. The usage analysis showed the achievement of these goals in most aspects, but we also experienced some negative consequences. After a broad literature review of the topic, discussions in professional listservs and telephone conversations with other librarians, we realized that using the PPV model involves not only the librarians’ efforts, it also needs the full support of the journal providers. This article will explore the new issues and consequences, both positive and negative, of the use of mediated and unmediated PPV models by academic libraries. I will compare the existing PPV offerings and policies from journal providers, and suggest improvements that will help libraries implement PPV.

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