Buy vs. Borrow

What is it?

ILL is not free, even in the absence of lender fees. Costs like shipping, staff time, license/subscription fees, copyright, and office supplies sure can add up. When all of those costs combine, you can sometimes be faced with a $15-$25 transaction (or more)—perhaps only for a $5-$10 item. That’s why it can make a whole lot of sense to buy the item instead: articles from publishers or document providers, and books/media from Amazon or other sellers.

Although it helps if your ILL department has a credit card, it’s not required. For example, articles can be purchased via the Copyright Clearance Center’s Get It Now service with monthly invoices (at a negotiated flat fee of $24/article). Books and media can be purchased from your preferred vendors, which may allow you to use purchase orders. The key is a sensible workflow: Have you considered integrating your Acquisitions and ILL requests into ILLiad using the Getting It System Toolkit (GIST)? Can the cataloging process be expedited for these on-demand titles? Do you have the discovery addons you need to quickly make informed decisions?

How does it help?

Not only can purchasing a book or article save you money, it almost guarantees better turnaround time for your patrons, and in the case of books/media, can also improve your collection diversity. For articles, you can often pay less to purchase a copy than to pay copyright royalties. For books and media, purchasing can make the most sense if the combination of lender fees and return shipping cost more than a new or used copy of the item itself (in many cases you can even get free shipping, such as with Amazon Prime).

Getting Started

Getting It System Toolkit (GIST)

GIST is a suite of tools that facilitates purchase request management within ILLiad. It’s extremely customizable and is tailored for a purchase-on-demand workflow. Using data gathered from WorldCat, Amazon, Better World Books, Google Books, Hathi Trust, and other open access book repositories, staff can easily determine if it makes more sense to buy a book, borrow a book, or connect users with a full text copy if it’s available. This saves time, money, and can improve your collection at the same time.

You have full control over implementation: use it only for purchasing select ILL requests; implement a full-scale purchase-on-demand service; or use it to manage your entire acquisitions operation. For more information, visit

Copyright Clearance Center’s Get It Now service

The Get It Now service allows libraries to quickly, easily, and more cost-effectively provide pay-per-view articles to their patrons. With access to over 8,800 journal titles from leading publishers, Get It Now provides a gateway for purchasing journal articles on demand at a price lower than purchasing directly from the publishers websites. In addition, Get It Now facilitates direct-to-patron delivery using Odyssey -- often with turnaround times under an hour. Billing is consolidated which is ideal for ILL departments without credit cards.

To get started, first contact the Copyright Clearance Center to set up your account:

Then, visit the ILLiad Addons Directory to download the Get It Now addon:

For help setting up and using the addon, see:

Using vendor addons

If you library has a vendor of choice, you can take advantage of individual vendor addons to make quick purchases. These are handy especially if you only make occasional purchases through your ILL office. Addons have been developed for most major vendors, including Amazon, Alibris, Barnes & Noble, GOBI, Better World Books, and Powell’s. For more information, visit the ILLiad Addons Directory:

Tip: Assign a Vendor for your purchase requests

Making a purchase in ILL? We recommend using a custom Lender Address record simply called “Vendor.” Not only will this allow you to easily track and search for your purchases in ILLiad, but marking it as a “Copyright Payer” also prevents purchased articles from accidentally appearing in your copyright orders.

To avoid any connection manager errors, be sure to switch the system ID from OCLC to OTH.

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