Most libraries use a combination of three methods for acquiring serials: purchase through subscription agencies and other vendors, purchase direct from publishers, and the exchange of materials with other institutions. Subscription agencies and vendors dominate serial acquisitions, handling between half and two‐thirds of the annual serial expenditures of U.S. libraries. Subscription agents can avail themselves of economies of scale, discounts from publishers, and sophisticated automated systems, to provide basic subscription services — order placement and renewal, publisher prepayment, and support for the claiming of missing issues. Beyond these basics, agents offer a variety of ad‐ditional services ranging from printed catalogs and customized invoices to online files of serial pricing data, and electronic messaging systems. Although some agencies offer discounts on certain types of publications and services, they usually levy service or handling fees to cover the cost of service provision.
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