Every year libraries purchase digital archive collections (or DACs), as one-off perpetual purchases. Precise business models and licensing terms for these ‘perpetual’ purchases can vary from one publisher to another, but it is common practice for them often to involve an additional yearly platform fee.
However, there is often no information on the publishing costs and how these are calculated so that institutions can ascertain whether these fees are fair and reasonable. This is a problem for libraries because unpredictable and recurring fees impact on libraries’ budgets, especially as one-off and recurring costs are funded from different budget categories.
Digital archival collections can comprise of many forms of digitised materials including - but not limited to - texts, manuscripts, illustrations, photographs, maps, pamphlets, diaries, correspondence, ephemera, cartoons and audio-visual materials. One-off perpetual purchases of digital archival collections by and large relate to static unchanging collections of content; however, content may occasionally be added in some instances.
It is acknowledged that business practices vary widely across publishers who sell DACs to the UK higher education sector, and that this has led to dissatisfaction about charging for such collections amongst our members.
While some licensors offer ‘fixed’ collections as apparent one-off purchases, with no further fees for content, ongoing access to this material via the provider’s platform may still involve the payment of additional yearly or intermittent ‘platform/hosting fees.’ These fees are known by different names, including annual access fees and continual service fees (CSFs).
How this guide can help
This guide aims to support our members in negotiating with publishers, describing best practices that will balance the business needs of publishers with the requirements of libraries, creating a mutually-beneficial relationship, resulting in a greater use of digital archival collections in higher education.
The goal is to work towards a business relationship whereby one-off purchases are truly one-off investments on the part of libraries, or at least, one in which ongoing fees are routinely transparent, predictable and affordable/manageable.
Libraries can use our stakeholder-endorsed principles to guide them in their negotiations with licensors and as a means of identifying publishers who have already adopted, or are moving towards implementing, these principles into their business models.
The principles exemplify good practice to meet the requirements of libraries while balancing business needs such as royalties, the continued commercial viability of the product, and on-going infrastructure support.
By collectively embracing these principles, libraries and publishers will further deliver valuable research opportunities in learning, teaching and research through the provision of DACs in higher education.
2019 survey results
Our July 2019 survey1 of senior librarians and collection managers on digital archival collections platform charges revealed that:
- 42% of the 67 institutions that took part spent, on average, up to 100K or more over the last five years on one-off purchases from publishers
- Fees ranged from up to £5,000 to over £15,000 per year across publisher platforms
- Most institutions felt that the platform/hosting fees they were charged were not very good value for money
While not specifically aimed at DACs, the raw data from the SCONUL 2017 ‘What librarians want publishers to hear’2 and the 2019 ‘What publishers want librarians to hear’3 provided additional corroborating evidence on this topic.
The ongoing cost of platform/hosting fees for outright purchases of static databases is of major concern for libraries.
As the content can often only be accessed via the publisher’s platforms, institutions that purchase these resources are often faced with year-on-year increases to access the content they have purportedly bought as an outright purchase.
The alternative is losing access to content they have spent considerable institutional investment on, depriving teachers and learners of research opportunities.
In your words...
These are direct quotes from our members:
“We may have funds available to buy outright at the end of a financial year but we do not have available funds in our recurrent budgets for ongoing hosting fees”
“The option of having platform fees capped seems to start at such a high level that we, who have bought substantial numbers of digital archives over the years, have not yet reached that level. I would say that the cap starts at far too high a level”
“It would be helpful if publishers would provide a TDM hard drive copy of digital archives at the time of purchase”
“[It would] be helpful if archive publishers would allow TDM users to download from their online platform if informed of the date, time etc in advance, as some journal publishers have managed to do”
The 2020 coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally affected every aspect of education globally.
While the financial impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak on higher education and the economy are not yet known, several reports predict that the pandemic will result in a “very substantial loss” in enrolments and income, particularly international students.
Universities UK’s recent submission to UK government4 states that in the current financial year (2019-20) the sector is facing losses in the region of £790m from lost accommodation, catering and conference income alone. The potential losses in fee income from international (non-EU and EU) students could total between £6.9 billion across the UK higher education sector.
Jisc is continuing to support the long-term financial impacts in various guises across the products and services offered. We are looking for publishers to support our members and recognise that the affordability of pricing of products is essential to their uptake by higher education institutions. The current economic climate means this is more important than ever.
Our members and sector bodies such as SCONUL and Research Libraries UK (RLUK) have already conveyed to us the emergency measures they have put in place to enable them to continue to provide access to content. These measures include in-year cuts in addition to heightened scrutiny of all purchases.
In collaboration with our members, we have established this set of four principles to help libraries in their negotiations with publishers when making one-off perpetual purchases of static digital archival collections and databases.
These principles reflect the expectations that libraries should have from publishers.
As with adoption of the Jisc model license, they also offer publishers the opportunity to work towards a set of standards for engagement with libraries to enhance access and use of licensed material.
At Jisc, we're are also adopting these principles in our framework agreements to ensure we negotiate the most cost-effective deals on behalf of our members.
Offer price transparency
Only 27% of members who responded to the Jisc hosting survey indicated they can always access clear and transparent information about the full cost of purchasing digital archive collections, including hosting fees.
Publishers should provide transparent and itemised information on all costs associated with the one-off purchases. This should include any annual platform/hosting fees or, if applicable, additional content fees, any subsequent increases to those fees, as well as the functionality and service levels each platform provides, so that institutions can evaluate and benchmark platforms.
Jisc recognises that there is a range of business models that can be used in licensing DACs.
- All contracts must clearly state whether a platform/hosting fee is applicable to the one-off perpetual purchase of content
- If no platform/hosting fee is stated in the initial contract, no fee should be levied at any future point
- All contracts must clearly state whether the content acquired will remain static and unchanged, or whether content will be updated
- Publishers must demonstrate the long-term viability of their platforms
- If ongoing platform/hosting fees are stipulated in the initial contract:
- The frequency at which fees will be levied (such as yearly, every two years, etc) should be stipulated and not changed in subsequent years
- Publishers need to clearly state what percentage of the fee relates to platform/hosting and what percentage relates to additional content
- The frequency at which content will be added, and the expected volume of updates, should be clearly outlined
- Any content added after the initial purchase of the product must be covered by the terms and conditions of the original contract including perpetual access to the additional content
If increases are related to platform/hosting, publishers should clearly state why those increases are justified.
Price access fees responsibly
According to our hosting survey:
- 61% rarely or never obtained clear information about how hosting fees were calculated
- 53% rarely or never fully understood what platform/hosting fees are used for (platform maintenance/improvements, etc)
- 43% rarely or never were told well in advance of increases to hosting fees
Publishers must justify the necessity of any platform/hosting fees in addition to the outright purchase fee and should moderate any such increases in fees.
- An itemised breakdown of all component parts included in the platform/hosting fee (eg, triaging, editorial work, copy editing, etc) should be supplied to the licensor
Whilst we recognise that hosting and development of digital content platforms incur costs, providers should be open in advance about what development is going to take place so that libraries can plan accordingly, and they should moderate any increases in fees.
- Calculation of access fees should take into consideration the institutions overall spend and holdings with the publisher
- If an institution is accessing multiple content types or collections on a publisher’s platform, the access fee should be reduced overall or eliminated
- Platform/hosting increases should be reasonably set and ideally not exceed the UK rate of inflation
- Agreements should move towards Jisc banding to more equitably charge institutions across the sector
- Agreements should provide options for institutions to opt-out of fee-based content updates and to continue access to the original static collection only should they wish to do so
- Publishers are encouraged to cap the total platform/hosting fee an institution pays for a perpetual purchase to that publisher’s DAC content;
- Caps should be reasonably set, proportionate to the original price paid by the institution to the publisher, and take into consideration all other resources purchased from the publisher
- Caps should have a reasonable expiry date, regardless of whether the institution has met that cap, at which point the institution should be required to pay no further fees (we recommend no more than five years)
As a means of encouraging purchasing of DACS by libraries, publishers are recommended to adopt a business model that removes recurrent annual platform/hosting fees, whereby one-off purchases are truly one-off investments on the part of libraries.
Any ongoing costs associated with delivering content to our members should be itemised in the initial quoted price, removing additional unpredictable and recurring costs which impact on libraries budgets, especially as one-off and recurring costs are funded from different budget categories.
Provide ongoing access to materials
When an institution purchases a collection in perpetuity, the licensor should on request provide the institution with an archival copy (free of charge) that can be easily integrated and delivered through the institution’s own platform(s) at the point of contract.
- Should more collection items be made available by the publisher, copies should be provided each time such an update is made in perpetuity, in accordance with the licence terms
- If a copy is provided on physical media (such as magnetic tape or hard drive) and subsequently fails, or the technology required to access it is no longer widely supported, publishers should make every effort to provide a replacement copy of the data, either via electronic transmission to the institution’s storage systems or by replacing the physical media (directly or with a more up-to-date format), for a peppercorn fee
- Where an institution terminates a perpetual access contract due to the levying of platform/hosting fees, publishers should provide an archival copy free of charge
- If a publisher withdraws all or part of the licensed materials, they should provide a substitute for the withdrawn material that is acceptable to the institution
- Upon withdrawal of licensed materials, the publisher will be liable to reimburse to the Institution such part of the licence fee as is reasonably attributable to the licensed material
Enable text and data mining
According to the Jisc digital archival collections platform charging survey, 89% have not, or do not know if they have, conducted text and data mining (TDM) on their collections but the majority of those that are conducting TDM have experienced associated fees for their activities.
The platform provider should also, in accordance with legal provisions, provide the means to undertake modern research using the material, including text and data mining, either via its platform or on the platform of choice of the higher education institution at no additional cost to the institution.
- Publishers should provide institutions with a copy of the ‘raw data’ on request, this may be at the time of purchase or sometime thereafter, to support text and data mining by authorised users belonging to the institution.
- This raw data should be delivered in a useable and standardised format, and consist of all component datasets used in the delivery of the online collection, including elements such as image files, structured metadata, any searchable text derived from OCR or re-keying, necessary lookup files and organisational information required to understand their interrelation.
- Ideally, a document describing the content structure (such as Document Type Definition) should also be provided
- The delivery medium for the ‘raw data’ should be agreed at point of contract such as whether through API access or a physical medium. Any ‘raw data’ on a physical medium, should be provided free of charge
- As with ongoing access to materials, if a physical medium fails for any reason, a replacement should be provided for a peppercorn fee
- The publisher should provide clear information outlining the permissible uses of provided datasets, which should be at least equivalent to the exception under S29A CDPA, the UK’s text and data mining copyright exception.
- By default, publishers should not charge extra to supply raw data for TDM for collections that have been purchased by institutions. Should a charge be applied, there should be a clear explanation of costs and how those costs were calculated.
We have established the digital archival group purchasing scheme for the purchase of static DACs in UK higher education.
The scheme offers completely transparent pricing that is based on Jisc banding and eliminates annual platform/hosting fees. Based on the principle ‘the more products that are purchased, the lower the price,’ the scheme equitably benefits Jisc members across all bands as discounts increase based on the total number of products purchased from each publisher who is part of the scheme.
We continue to review the group purchasing scheme to ensure the model, content and fees remain affordable to the sector.
- 1 A survey summary is available via this post on the Jisc digitisation and content blog: https://digitisation.jiscinvolve.org/wp/2019/07/01/commercial-digital-ar...
- 2 Librarians’ messages to publishers: turning research into practice, UKSG - article links to raw data referenced: https://insights.uksg.org/articles/10.1629/uksg.390/
- 3 What do publishers want librarians to know?, UKSG. Newsletter links to raw data - https://www.uksg.org/newsletter/uksg-enews-444/what-do-publishers-want-l...
- 4 UUK proposal: Achieving stability in the higher education sector following COVID-19 - https://universitiesuk.ac.uk/news/Documents/uuk_achieving-stability-high...