At 2am while feeding a newborn, a lot of random thoughts pop in and out of my head, including one about the cost of online journals and usage.
Have we gotten to a time in libraries where the print version of a title is worthless? Ok worthless is probably too strong of a word. How about forgotten? Have we gotten to a point in time where users forget about printed journals and use only online titles. This is not to say that they don’t know that there are printed titles. When they do a search or are given search results what do they do first? They scroll through and print off or save all of the articles that are available online. The ones that aren’t available online are left to the end only to be retrieved if they need a few more articles to answer their question or do research. If they feel they have enough articles already from the ones they downloaded online, they don’t bother with the ones that are available in print only. Those articles become the forgotten articles. I am not saying this is the best or most comprehensive way to do research, but it happens all the time.
Librarians rely on usage stats to make decisions on what journals they intend to keep our purchase (ILL request stats). So have we gotten to a point where a printed journal automatically gets less use (despite quality of articles) because it is not online? Would going online make that journal more useful? What if the online version of the journal is too expensive for your library, do you hold on to the print because it is one of those titles that you feel you should keep? Or do you dump the title?
If you dump the title in print and you don’t get it online, the publisher is losing your money. Do you think there should be a trial year online subscription (let’s say for twice the cost of print) allowing you online access to the title? This way both you and the publisher can determine a “fair” online price based on a year of usage data?
Determining what a “fair” price after that year may be sticky, and the pricing details/levels should be worked out a head of time before you embark on a year trial. That way as the year progresses you can tell your supervisors that you currently have a year trial subscription to the Journal of Big Toe Science and it is getting X amount of usage and if that usage trend continues that means next year it will cost approximately $Y to have. Everybody can plan ahead of time.
I am not entirely sure how well this would work, like I said a lot of things float through my head at 2am.