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Just as you can subscribe to print journals in many ways—by purchasing individual journal titles through a publisher or by consolidating your subscriptions with a vendor, you can use a variety of mechanisms to access and subscribe to journals online. The glossary below is meant as a guide to some of the more arcane terms involved in the distribution models of electronic publishing; the glossary may appear more relevant to librarians than to users, but anyone who makes decisions concerning accessions, including university administrators and teaching staff, should understand the different ways e-journal publishers and distributors work because it affects ease of access, budgeting, and finances.

Aggregator and Gateway Services

The first term is the most complicated and confusing because there are similarities and differences between aggregators and gateways. Indeed, in some instances, aggregators and gateways are merging to become one.

Aggregators are to online publishing as vendors or subscription agents are to print. Instead of selling subscriptions to hard copy, they provide links on their Web pages to e-journals that are produced by a number of different publishers.

Some aggregators require that you subscribe to all of the journals in their "bundle;" others let you pick and choose. This distinction is very important; before subscribing to a "bundled" service, it is essential to evaluate whether the journals included in the "bundle" will justify the cost. How many of the journals will users want to read regularly, and what would an individual subscription cost? If the amount is lower than a "bundled" subscription, don't use the aggregator for your subscription services.

The big advantage to accessing journals through aggregators is that they provide a single interface and access route to a large number of journals so you don't need to worry about lots of different usernames, passwords, and search engines.

Gateways provide services to publishers and to users. Stanford University's HighWire, for example, works with learned-society publishers to package their journals electronically and to add value to the content. You can go to the HighWire Web site to select one or more journals and to search across journal titles, but you are then linked to the publisher's Web site for actual access.

Finally, some aggregators and gateways are attempting to establish a "one stop shop" in that you can search across multiple databases, consult tables of contents and abstracts to many journals, and then link to journal titles. The aim is to bring all services together for the ease of the user.

Current Awareness

Current awareness information allows you to keep abreast of recent developments in your field. You can register for free table of contents and topic alerts. A number of services offer current awareness information free of charge-journal publishers, aggregator services, and other organizations. This is discussed more fully in the following pages.

Distribution by Author

Many researchers now mount their research results on the Web without intermediaries, such as a journal publisher. They may have their own home page, for example, or they may use an e-print service, such as the physics preprint server, BioMed Central, and the Open Access Initiative (described later in this guide). In essence, the whole concept of scholarly communication is changing.

Methods of Accessing Full-Text

Some journals, such as the British Medical Journal, are available online free of charge. You do not need to worry about "authentication." Some systems require a password; still others register the IP (Internet Protocol) address of the computers al lowed to access the journals in question. No password is required; users simply log on.

In addition, it is possible to pay to download the full text of journal articles. Some journals allow you to pay for timed access to an entire issue, usually 24 hours. Others only permit access to the article you have selected. Credit cards are usually required for "pay-per-view" privileges.

Pricing Models

Some publishers provide free electronic access to print subscribers. Others offer electronic access at a surcharge. An increasing number of publishers offer the option of subscribing to the electronic version only. In addition, as mentioned above, some aggregators require libraries to subscribe to a bundle of journals.

Primary Publisher

Commercial organizations, learned societies, universities, etc. are directly responsible for publishing monographs, journals, and other publications. They solicit, review, select, edit, package, and distribute their publications. Publishers run the gamut in size and price-from large commercial publishers, such as Elsevier, to smaller learned society publishers. But these differences are beginning to blur, particularly because some learned societies are turning their publishing over to academic and commercial publishers.

Supply Models

Price and supply models go hand in hand. Journals can be supplied through a vendor by license-occasionally for a single user, more typically for multiple users. The license determines how many people can access the journal simultaneously. It is possible to take out a site-wide license, which is calculated according to the number of users at your institution. Countrywide licenses are also possible. Increasingly, many institutions are forming consortia to negotiate jointly with vendors and publishers to lower costs.

© 2003 Carnegie Corporation of New York, The Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation.

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