How Publishers can use a turn-away system to increase sales and provide a targeted customer experience

8 December 2015

Anouska Partner

Anouska Partner


We’ve all been there, an essay deadline is looming and we’ve resigned ourselves to a night in the university library. In times of desperation, there isn’t always time to find the right book with the right references.

Digital material has therefore become the ‘go-to’ for most students, but this is not without its limitations, namely: “Restricted access” or “Buy PDF - £38”, provoking that all too familiar disappointment (and stress!).

Turn-away systems present opportunities for publishers to capitalise on this; both to benefit themselves and their customers.

What is a turn-away system, and what are the benefits?

With a turn-away system, publishers can:

  • Glean insight into which journals students have tried to access
  • Make recommendations to universities, backed up with statistics.
  • Use these online statistics to assess information channels to the market and to experiment with pricing models.
  • Increase sales and improve customer relationships by targeting the right audience with the right material, in the right way and at the correct price.

Who else does this benefit?

My experience involved time wasted, staring at my laptop screen in disbelief when I couldn’t freely access journals that were crucial to my assignments. Therefore like many others, I would reluctantly close the tab and search for another similar reference which I could access. In most cases, universities only look into buying material if enough students request it, but the reality is, most students won’t and so an automated tracking system is much more ideal.

  • Students benefit from having this material freely available, improving the quality of their work
  • It gives universities confidence that they are buying material that is in demand
  • Authors benefit from having their work exposed to many.

The time it takes for this process to complete means that, although it is helpful to future students, students working on assignments today are unlikely to benefit in time for their deadlines. Perhaps publishers can keep track of material used for certain topics, enabling them to offer specific material based on purchases made by other universities before the assignment is set; and maybe universities could allocate credits to students as a voting system, for use during the period of the assignment. As soon as ‘enough’ students vote for the same material, the university could be offered the chance to purchase it instantly.

There is of course the option to buy individual books, visit the library, and to buy these online PDFs, but a student loan can only be stretched so far. With technology ever evolving, and patience levels on the decline, it is the instant gratification that we are so used to in most aspects of our lives, resulting in this being an expectation within our studies and research too.

Hopefully systems such as these will give publishers a competitive edge with targeted marketing, higher sales, and improved customer relations. It will, at the very least, decrease the amount of sinking hearts when it comes to preparing for a bleak 24 hours in the library.

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