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This case study provides a brief novice to intermediate level overview for e-journal preservation summarised from the DPC Technology Watch Report Preservation, Trust and Continuing Access for e-Journals with updates and additions by the author. Two "mini case studies" are included together with short summaries of major services and solutions. The report itself is recommended to readers who need a more advanced level briefing on the topic and practice. It covers a wider range of issues and practice in greater depth with extensive further reading and advice (Beagrie, 2013).




Digital Preservation and trust in having continuing future access to digital content have become increasingly important for research libraries as published journals and articles have shifted from print to electronic formats. Traditional publishing business models and relationships have also undergone major transformations as a result of that shift.

Among many significant changes there has been a move from libraries purchasing and physically holding (and preserving) a paper journal locally (with multiple redundancy of copies between libraries), to renting (licensing) remote access to an electronic journal held on publishers' platforms that are often based internationally in other jurisdictions.

In parallel, there has been a growing open-access movement for e-journal articles that seeks to remove the subscription charges for access. Subscription journals, open-access journals and hybrids of the two (either a mixture of open-access and subscription articles in a journal or a 'moving wall' to open access after a fixed period of time) provide a complex landscape for the preservation of, and long-term access to, e-journals.

This e-journal landscape continues to evolve as e-publishing itself begins to shift from static to dynamic content, and the importance of data and supplementary material linked to articles increases in major disciplines.

All these changes in turn have made preservation of e-journals more demanding, more international and dependent on others, and brought issues of trust to the fore. Trust in this context is not solely of technology for preservation, but negotiating rights (and retaining a record of them for future use), and having transparent information on what is being archived, how it is preserved, and how and when it can be accessed.

This makes e-journals one of the most dynamic and challenging areas of digital preservation, particularly in terms of business models and trust mechanisms for shared or out-sourced preservation services.


Services and solutions


It is important to understand the significant implications for preservation and access of the different requirements (and terminology) that apply for e-journals: in particular the distinction between continuing access and long term preservation, as these differences lead to different types of service for e-journal archiving.

  • Continuing access (sometimes also called post-cancellation or perpetual access) applies only to subscription journals and securing long-term access for their subscribers;
  • Long-term preservation applies to both open and subscribed content.

The main preservation and continuing access services and solutions available for e-journals are as follows:


Keepers Registry

The Keepers Registry is a Jisc service to provide easily accessible information about inclusion of e-journals in preservation services and to highlight those e-journals for which no archiving arrangements exist. EDINA, a national data centre based at the University of Edinburgh, has developed the service along with its partner in the project, the ISSN International Centre in Paris

Legal and voluntary deposit in copyright libraries

The role of a national library is to ensure that the published heritage of its country is preserved and made accessible. In many countries legal deposit is an important vehicle for achieving this is. There is a global trend towards extending legal deposit from the print environment to cover e-journals and other electronic publications. Legal deposit legislation (or similar voluntary deposit arrangements) normally involves those subscription e-journals considered part of the national published heritage of that country. To protect the commercial interests of the publisher it also restricts off-site access to preserved electronic material for a substantial period of time. Typically this means a national legal deposit collection does not cover the international range of subscription e-journals licensed by other libraries and their users, and does not meet their requirements for ‘perpetual access’ rights.


CLOCKSS (Controlled LOCKSS) is a not-for-profit collaboration between libraries and publishers. It is a dark archive based on the LOCKSS software (see section below on LOCKSS) in which a limited number of libraries take on an archival role on behalf of a broader community. It provides insurance to libraries that the e-journal and other content they have subscribed to will be preserved for the long term. It is described as a ‘private LOCKSS network’.

KB e-Depot

The Koninklijke Bibliotheek (KB) is the national library of the Netherlands and operates the e-Depot. It has taken the policy decision to archive journals that are within its national mandate and additionally a range of e-journals (including open-access titles in the Directory of Open-Access Journals) published beyond its borders. The e-Depot does not currently provide for post-cancellation continuing access by licensees of the content. Generally, end-user access is restricted to on-site perusal at the KB for reasons of private research only and online access is denied. However, full online access is granted to publications by open-access publishers.


LOCKSS (Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe) provides libraries with open-source tools and support so they can take local custody of a wide variety of materials, including subscription and open-access scholarly assets (books, journals, etc.). Readers access LOCKSS preserved content whenever (and for whatever reason) the material cannot be viewed on the publisher’s (or intermediary’s) servers. The highly distributed nature of this approach aims to ensure that there is sufficient replication to safeguard content despite any potential disasters which might befall individual LOCKSS institutions.


Portico is designed specifically as a third-party service for scholarly literature published in electronic form and provides three specific preservation services for e-journals, e-books and digitized historical collections respectively. It provides insurance to libraries that the e-journal and other content they have subscribed to will be preserved for the long term. Portico only provides access to the e-journals they have preserved after specified ‘trigger events’. In addition, if a publisher has designated Portico as such, it can also serve as a potential mechanism for post-cancellation access.

Consortial hosting

A small number of regional consortia also organize and provide their own hosting services for access and preservation of e-journals. Notable examples are OhioLink, operated by the Ohio Library and Information Network, and the Scholars Portal, operated by the Ontario Council of University Libraries.


 Case study 1: the e-journal or its past issues are no longer available from the publisher


This is a highly likely scenario as publishers merge or change their business models, as larger publishers review and adjust their portfolio of titles, or as learned societies move publication contracts for their journals from one publisher to another. Journal titles are also sometimes traded between publishers, which may mean that access to past issues is no longer supported by the previous owner.

The UKSG Transfer Code of Practice initiative has produced a Code of Practice aimed at easing the problems created when journal titles move between publishers. Of relevance are the following paragraphs contained in version 3 of the code (UKSG, 2014):

The transferring publisher will alert the receiving publisher to all existing preservation arrangements for the journal.

The transferring publisher must ensure continued access to its subscribers where it has granted perpetual access rights, even if the transferring publisher will cease to host the online version of the journal after the effective transfer date. Either the transferring or the receiving publisher, or both, could fulfill perpetual access obligations. The Code intentionally does not specify the means for achieving such access, but places on the transferring publisher the responsibility for ensuring that subscribers to whom it has granted perpetual access rights will continue to have access post-transfer

The transferring publisher will use reasonable efforts to communicate journal transfer information where perpetual access rights were granted as part of a licensing agreement/Big Deal, unless archival rights will remain with the transferring publisher.

Subscribers that have been granted perpetual access rights to previously published content with the authority of the journal owner must have those rights honoured. Either the transferring or the receiving publisher, or both, could fulfil perpetual access obligations.

The receiving publisher will continue the existing, or equivalent, preservation arrangements for the journal after the effective transfer date. The receiving publisher will not remove content that was previously deposited in preserving archive(s), even if the receiving publisher will not be continuing to deposit content in the archive(s).

The decision of the publisher Sage to no longer offer its publication Graft provided a real-life example of triggered access from three archiving solutions – Portico, KB e-Depot, and CLOCKSS. In this case all were able to continue to offer access to the issues they held, either as open access (CLOCKSS and KB e-Depot) or else as a service to members (Portico). While it cannot be guaranteed that the archive will include all back issues of the title (as with Graft), participation in an archiving solution which covers at least some issues will significantly reduce the risk of disruption to continuity of service.


 Case study 2: library e-Journals, perpetual access, and de-accessioning print


This case-study was first published by Jisc as part of work funded in its digital preservation programme and was incorporated into the Tech Watch Report. It has been adapted for use in the Handbook.

The case study differs from others in illustrating a few of the issues in realizing some of the potential cost savings from e-journals, particularly space savings. Increasingly, academic libraries are investing heavily in e-journals which duplicate their print back-runs. For libraries facing acute pressures on space, one solution to their problem is to dispose of or relegate print back-runs which overlap with their electronic holdings.

The case study focuses on work at Imperial College London Library in providing a database and toolkit for staff making such de-selection decisions (Cooper and Norris, 2007). Imperial established three criteria to determine the sustainability of their e-journals for de-accessioning of print. Their electronic access was classified as sustainable when at least one of the following applied:

  • Imperial had perpetual access rights to the content, via the web. Imperial's perpetual access rights were nowhere near as comprehensive as they would have wished; they estimated that less than 50% of their content was covered. In addition, some of their licences specified an unsuitable delivery method for post-termination access. As they were no longer supporting networked CD-ROMs and did not have the resources to mount journal content locally, they considered a journal sustainable only if perpetual access is provided via the web.
  • The journal was permanently open access for all years or certain years. Hybrid open-access journals were not included in this category, as the project was not interested in sustainability at the article level. Finding open-access journals which fulfilled their criteria proved harder than anticipated. The main stumbling block was their need for assurance on the permanency of open access. Although the Bethesda and Berlin Declarations on Open Access include perpetual access in their definitions, Imperial discovered that not all 'open-access journals' met this criterion of permanency.
  • The content was in one of Imperial's trusted services such as JSTOR, the ACM digital archive or a Jisc-funded archive. Imperial noted that of their three sustainability criteria, this one, covering services that did not offer perpetual access rights, was the hardest to pin down. The services falling into this category all shared two characteristics: the first was a good track record of stability, i.e., they had demonstrated continuity of titles from one year to another for as long as they had subscribed; the second was a history of and reputation for, affordability and value for money.

Twenty-one months into the project Imperial had identified 700 shelf-metres of sustainable stock for disposal from one site, and planned to rollout the de-selection exercise to other sites. Although it was still early days, they felt their sustainability criteria seemed to be working. The only sustainable content that they had lost was four journals from the same publisher, and they were in the process of challenging that loss. This proved to be an added benefit of the entitlements database they had created for the project; without it they would not have been aware that content over which they had perpetual access rights had been lost.




Continuing access and preservation of e-journals has involved initiatives in organizing multi-institutional collaboration, developing third-party services, and establishing trust in long-term access and preservation between different stakeholders. The issues it has had to address go well beyond technology, and legal, economic and service developments are equally critical to its success. Many challenges remain in e-journal archiving, but there have been significant successes and lessons learnt of interest to the wider digital preservation community as well as to libraries and publishers.



Preservation, Trust and Continuing Access for e-Journals, DPC Technology Watch Report 13-04 September 2013

This report discusses current developments and issues which libraries, publishers, intermediaries and service providers are facing in the area of digital preservation, trust and continuing access for e-journals. It also includes generic lessons and recommendations on outsourcing and trust learnt in this field of interest to the wider digital preservation community. It is not solely focused on technology, and covers relevant legal, economic and service issues (43 pages).

To bin or not to bin? Deselecting print back-runs available electronically at Imperial College London Library

Increasingly, academic libraries are investing heavily in e-journals which duplicate their print back-runs. For libraries facing acute pressures on space, one solution to their problem is to dispose of or relegate print back-runs which overlap with their electronic holdings. This 2007 article by R Cooper and D Norris describes work at Imperial College London Library to provide a tool-kit for staff making such de-selection decisions.

UKSG, 2014 Transfer Code of Practice: Version 3.0 March 2014

The Transfer Code of Practice promotes a set of standards that apply whenever a journal is transferred from one publisher or publishing platform to another. Publishers who publicly sign up to the Code and apply it in practice are considered 'Transfer compliant'. As a voluntary best practices code for industry participants, the Transfer Code of Practice does not supplant contractual terms, intellectual property rights or the competitive marketplace between publishers.


KB e-Depot



Ohio Link

Scholars Portal

Keepers Registry



Beagrie, N., 2013. Preservation, Trust and Continuing Access for e-Journals DPC Technology Watch Report 13-04 September 2013. Available:

Cooper, R. and Norris, D., 2007. To bin or not to bin? Deselecting print back-runs available electronically at Imperial College London Library, Serials 20 (3), 208–214. Available:

UKSG, 2014. Transfer Code of Practice: Version 3.0 March 2014. Available: