Pay before flipping the switch? JSTOR vs. Ebsco

We’re in the fortunate position to be expanding both our JSTOR and Ebsco holdings. After getting quotes a while back, last week I reached out to each vendor to begin the process of upgrading/adding to our collections. Full disclosure, this is the first time I had been in the position of personally handling expanding electronic resources for a library, so I was unsure what to expect.

My main question was “when will we have access to the new resources?”. I didn’t know if we had to pay first before they flipped the switch or if they could get us started after some basic confirmation that we were committed to the upgrade. Through this process, I was hoping to learn what was typical, but that didn’t happen. It turns out that either a.) there is no standard or b.) JSTOR or Ebsco don’t follow the standard.

The process with JSTOR went like this:

  • Confirm that we’d like to go ahead with upgrade
  • Confirm pricing & discounts
  • Fill out, sign, scan, and return contract
  • Receive & process invoice
  • wait…

At no point in that process did JSTOR “flip the switch”.  So, I assume they have to receive payment before processing the upgrade.  However, JSTOR did experience some disruptions to their regular procedures during that time.  Earlier this week, JSTOR was experiencing major technical difficulties (logins & authentication weren’t working for anyone, anywhere apparently).  At one point after I had processed the invoice, I emailed our JSTOR rep asking when we can expect access to the new content and received a reply along the lines of “sorry for the delays, but since we’re dealing with other technical difficulties right now I don’t have an estimated time that you will have the new content”.  Fair enough, I guess.  As of right now we still don’t have access to the new content, even though we were sent an email today from JSTOR saying they’ve activated our new access.  I reached out to them to let them know that contrary to the email, access to the new content isn’t working.  We’ll see how this goes.

The process with EBSCO:

  • Confirm that we’d like to go ahead with the upgrade
  • While ESBCO was confirming final pricing & discounts with our consortia, they gave us access to the new services through a trial account
  • Final pricing confirmed
  • Invoice processed and sent

So A+ for EBSCO.  They “flipped the switch” early in the process, even before confirming final pricing.  To be fair, it was a trial account that they would activate for anyone interested in previewing the service, but in our case it meant we got access to the new content sooner.  Can’t ask for much more than that.

In this instance of a head-to-head, EBSCO is the clear winner.  But it’s hard to draw a conclusion on JSTOR given their recent exceptional technical difficulties.  And there is one thing about JSTOR that I highly appreciate and sets them apart from nearly all other major vendors: they disclose their pricing on their website.  It’s nearly unheard of, but highly customer friendly and they deserve kudos for being upfront with their pricing.

Really, I like both JSTOR and EBSCO, but in this instance EBSCO worked better for us.


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