Income models for Open Access: Appendix F: Use-Triggered Licensing, Implementation Steps

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Implementation Overview

A publisher might test and implement use-triggered fees as follows:

  • The pilot could include both subscription services willing to transition to Open Access, as well as open-access publications seeking a stable model.
  • The publisher(s) would work with libraries to develop a suitable pre-authorization agreement and process.
  • The publisher(s) would establish provisional fee levels and use-thresholds and analyze the potential revenue from adopting the model. (An example of how fees might be set is provided below.)
  • The fee and use levels could be market tested on a sample of libraries.
  • The publisher would ask its potential licensees to indicate their willingness to comply with the terms of the use-triggered license(s) by signing a pre-authorization agreement.
  • Based on the initial response, publishers could elect to pursue the model, revise their offer, or remain with their current model.

Setting Use-Triggered Fees

The access fee for use-triggered fees would need to be relatively low and translate into a reasonable cost per use. A publisher could establish simple, tiered fee levels based on usage, if such an approach would not add a disproportionate administrative cost relative to the incremental revenue that it might generate.

To establish a fee level adequate to generate a sufficient revenue stream, the publisher would need to analyze its usage data to determine the number of institutions that would trigger a fee at various use levels. Depending on the publication’s cost structure, this approach might not yield sufficient revenue to cover the publication’s operating costs fully.

Although the extent to which libraries consider cost-per-use in making acquisition decisions is unclear, a publisher should consider how the per-article or per-download cost compares with similar services. For example, for a journal, the per-article cost should be compared against prices from similar journals offering per-article pricing. At the same time, although a publisher could lower the effective per-use cost by raising the usage threshold, this would reduce the number of institutions covered by the fee.

The table below illustrates the type of analysis that a publisher might perform to establish its usage threshold and project revenue. The example projects potential use fee revenue under the following assumptions:

Use-Triggered Fee Example, Assuming $250 Fee

  • A fee threshold of 50 downloads per year, and an effective maximum cost to a library of $5 per article, yielding an annual fee of $250. (NB: This effective-cost metric would simply help a publisher compare the relative value of a fixed fee. The service would not be priced on a per-article basis.)
  • 300 institutions from developed countries that use the publication or service 50 or more times per year. The table indicates the total number of institutions at use thresholds of 200, 150, 100, 75, and 50 downloads.
  • The heaviest users of a publication will be more disposed to comply with a use-triggered fee, as suggested by the compliance rates for the use thresholds illustrated in the example. In the type of pilot project described above, a publisher would be able to base its initial compliance rate assumptions on the number of institutions that pre-authorize compliance.
  • An institution’s year-to-year usage of a publication or service remains relatively constant, and that, in practical terms, institutions will treat the fee as a serial obligation and will renew if invoiced. The terms of the pre-authorization agreement would need to address these issues. Again, the example simply provides one model for setting fees and estimating potential gross revenue. A publisher would modify the assumptions, as appropriate, based on usage of its journal.

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