Toward Improved ROI: Researching the Pay Per View Process

Connie Mead and Steve Oberg

Connie Mead and Steve Oberg

Connie Mead and Steve Oberg, both from Wheaton College, presented an update of their talk last year on pay-per-view (PPV, slides are here).  Steve began with insights from a literature review and case study.  PPV can provide increased access to content in libraries, but it is not for everybody and not necessarily universal, so there may be no need to do away with subscriptions. Some of the common themes from the literature review are shown here.

Common Themes

Steve said that if you want to learn about PPV, in his opinion the most insightful article is this one.

Most insightful article

And here are Steve’s definitions of PPV.

PPV definitions 005

There are 5 types of institutional PPV:

  • PPV Account: “Tokens” fund each view until a balance is exhausted.
  • Annual Access: Unlimited views for a 12 month period.
  • Intermediate Service: A contract with a vendor service obtains PPV on the institution’s behalf.
  • Credit card account: Each view is paid for with a credit card.
  • Day, Week, Month Pass: Access to a publisher’s titles for a specified duration.

Connie described Wheaton’s experiences with PPV.  In 2010, costs had escalated to the point that the library could not afford to renew its Big Deal.  Usage of about  70% of the titles was low, and there was no money to acquire new resources. So Wheaton dropped its Big Deal packages and added PPV and selected subscriptions, and found that their costs of access dropped from 23% of their budget in 2010 to 14% this year. Here are the details of how they did it.

How We Did It

The initial setup of this process was time-consuming; it took about 4 months. Here is a specific example.


Here are the results of Wheaton’s effort:


Lessons learned and tips for libraries:

  • Pay attention to subscribed backfile access and negotiate for the best terms, such as access to 15 to 20 years.
  • Ask about PPV  discounts if you retain some subscriptions.
  • Ensure that licenses match the calendar year and expire at year end.
  • Buy the largest bundle of PPV access you can afford and negotiate the best price.
  • Regularly monitor and analyze your PPV usage, and ensure you are not being charged for PPV access to subscribed content.
  • If access is lost for a significant time and the publisher asks you to test their system, negotiate for PPV credits.
  • When negotiating annual access, work with sales representatives and not the customer service department because sales representatives know the details of your account better.

Don HawkinsDon Hawkins
Charleston 2015 Conference Blogger and Against The Grain Columnist

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