Timing is Everything
Choosing an ejournal provider or deciding to change an existing one is a major decision that warrants an RFP and requires a minimum of six months to select and implement an ejournal host regardless of the number of titles involved.
Month 1: Compile lists of basic and new features, and decide if each is "essential," "nice to have," or "optional." Choose the top five. Determine how large of a back file will be included and establish the budget for the project.
Month 2: Conduct preliminary reference checks with customers of potential providers to identify vendors to be considered.
Month 3: Prepare and distribute the RFP.
Month 4: Allow a month for responses to be received.
Month 5: Allow a month to evaluate the responses, obtain additional information as needed, check references, and make a selection.
Month 6: Submit sample issue files before a final cost and production timetable can be confirmed.
Month 7 to 9… up to 12: Allow three to six months from the time a letter of agreement is signed until the publication can be moved to the public Web site.
Migrating from one vendor to another can be easier and less work than migrating from a proprietary system. While vendors generally cooperate with each other, this is not always the case and can add to the time required for migration. Ensure that your contract states that you own the metadata and reformatted files created by your vendor. Specify a timetable for their return to you or a new vendor when the contract is terminated. Require the right to withdraw all or part of your backfile from any vendor aggregation at the termination of the contract.
In general, ejournal hosting costs are structured as a one-time setup fee and an annual maintenance fee, based on a number of factors. However, the ways fees can be assessed vary widely; they may be broken out or even combined. They can also vary by title based on the unique characteristics of each journal. Make certain that all fees are included in the response.
The addition of the journal's backfiles to the hosting equation can substantially add to the cost as it may involve not only multiple formats but also multiple providers. Many vendors are willing to spread set up fees over several years and some may be willing to absorb or reduce them to gain an important customer.
Annual conversion and metadata generation costs are based on the staff time involved in file conversion and manipulating. Text-only publications cost less to convert while those with illustrations, graphics, and special characters are more expensive. Some vendors charge for writing conversion scripts, others do not. Fees are calculated by the number of issues or that number and the average number of articles per year.
Quality control inspection can be done by the vendor, the publisher, or both. Ejournal hosts prefer publisher involvement as they want to avoid giving instructions that may incur fees to typesetters, printers, or other vendors working for the publisher.
Vendors may not charge for the distribution of metadata to an established group of A&I vendors, but may charge for additional distributions, especially if they require any customization. Access control fees can be assessed per subscription, and/or the vendor may charge to load subscriber data.
While each publisher pays its own CrossRef membership fee, vendors can handle DOI assignment and registration. Vendors with substantial hosted content can provide reference DOIs from this content so that only the first look-up incurs a charge.