Electronic Only Journals Policy

This policy is intended to provide guidance on subscribing to electronic only journals and converting subscriptions from print versions to electronic. In general, the Libraries will not purchase print and electronic versions of the same title but each title will be evaluated individually. The following criteria have been identified to help bibliographers evaluate subscriptions for journal packages and individual titles. They may not be the only relevant criteria. Bibliographers should get faculty input before finalizing any decision. Much of the information needed to evaluate the criteria will be available in the license agreement. We recognize the need to gather more information about the usage of our print journals.

Accessibility and Reliability

The provider should maintain a reliable, stable interface. The license agreement should include clauses that indicate the provider's responsibility in this area and that compensate Binghamton University in the event of extended downtime. Access should be provided campus-wide via IP recognition (rather than via username and password). Journals and articles should have unique and durable URLs to facilitate access and OpenURL linking.


When the Libraries purchase a print subscription, we own the issues received and maintain an archive of the print volumes. With our electronic subscriptions, we typically have access to the content for the duration of subscription. This access ceases with payment unless archiving provisions have been outlined in the license agreement.

Archival access is permanent access to all content for the years subscribed to and any back files purchased. The publisher or e-journal licensor should hold appropriate rights for permanent online display of content.

Archiving provisions for heavily used publications important for research and teaching should be evaluated carefully. It may be that archiving is less important for peripheral publications. Online access via a journal aggregator generally should not be considered a substitute for either print or online subscriptions.


Online content should be available before or no later than publication of the print version.

It is not unusual for the electronic version of a journal to lack some material commonly found in the print version, such as letters to the editor, advertisements, and employment listings. At a minimum, electronic versions should include the complete articles, chapters or essays, with accompanying graphics, tables, and references. If the print and electronic versions are not equivalent, consideration should be given to print usage, user expectations, and alternatives to the missing print content among other criteria in making a decision.

Quality of Electronic Presentation and Display

Bibliographers should work with users to determine if quality is sufficient for use. Journals printed in color should provide high-quality color images for the electronic version that can be printed locally. The e-journal should provide access to digitally-generated print page images, preferably using Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF). Illustrative materials (tables, photographs, artistic renderings, etc.) must be included in a legible and desktop accessible format.

Pricing Considerations

Pricing considerations to be taken into account include: cost differential between online only vs. print + online; cost savings from package deals and savings in binding and storage costs. The Libraries should develop a policy as to how these related savings are reallocated in the overall budget.

A bibliographer should weigh pricing considerations when deciding to subscribe to a new journal, or when renewing a current journal subscription. If there is significant cost savings in subscribing to the electronic-only version of a journal, such a price differential could be sufficient cause to subscribe to only the electronic version of a journal, provided that other conditions outlined in this electronic journal policy document are fulfilled. If the Electronic Resources Committee becomes aware of such a price differential, selectors may be asked to review affected titles.

If an e-journal is part of a bundle, it must be determined if it is possible to realize savings by subscribing to the package as a whole, or if individual titles may be selected for subscription in an electronic-only version. Some publishers will only accept subscriptions to a journal package and not to individual journal titles. In certain cases, it may be necessary to cancel print equivalents of journals in order to finance a subscription to an e-journal package.

Scholarly Sharing

The license should allow for scholarly sharing of content in accordance with the principles of fair use. It should allow for interlibrary loan, preferably using an electronic copy, in accordance with CONTU guidelines.


Usage statistics should be considered together with pricing in order to assess possible difference in cost per use of print versus electronic. Some titles because of usage may lend themselves to being browsed in print. The publisher or e-journal licensor should provide timely, accurate and usable usage statistics, preferably COUNTER-compliant, for each e-journal under subscription.

Binghamton University Libraries Electronic Resources Committee 1/5/06

Our policy is based on policies published online at Boise State University, Simon Fraser University, University of Iowa, University of Maryland, and Yale University.

Last Updated: 8/19/13