Online access varies from publisher to publisher. We may have more than what we’ve subscribed to, or less: often, publishers make their archive available only as an additional purchase.
Every once in a while I run across a subscription that just doesn’t fit our institutional needs (such as the aforementioned single-user access), and I recently ran across one example: a journal that doesn’t allow us to retain our online access from year to year.
Antiquity is available in several formats: print, online, and print + online. Unfortunately, our print subscription was switched in 2006 to an online only subscription that only allowed access to the current year. Because we weren’t “premium” customers, we wouldn’t be able to retain the 2006 issues we paid for. We ended up paying extra to switch to the “print + online (with archive)” access (a one-time charge with a minimal annual maintenance fee).
It seems a little unfair that we can’t retain access to issues in our past subscription. We’ve paid to have access. Are publishers presuming that subscribers have subscriptions to aggregators like Academic Search Premier and InfoTrac, which provide access with an embargo? Also, I don’t know why this publisher doesn’t provide an “online only (with archive)” format, but it would save a tree (or two).
Rolling coverage is also frustrating, especially with an online-only subscription (no print to hold on to). Unless an institution purchases access to the archive, past subscriptions get lopped off whole volumes at a time. Take the American Fisheries Society, which provides access in the form of “current plus 5 years rolling” (from EBSCONET/Registration Tracker). It’s not only frustrating to lose what we’ve paid for, it’s also time-consuming to keep track of holdings. To clarify this for our users and reduce the amount of annual maintenance, I’ve added an “End User Access Note” that points out the details of the rolling coverage. Of course, that only appears on the EJS titles because they’re the only ones in our Registration Tracker list that can have such notes, so other holdings still have to be maintained year after year. The best online subscriptions allow us to retain what we’ve subscribed to (using IP authentication, of course!).