The alternative to direct ordering with publishers is to acquire the periodicals through a duly appointed subscription agent. A subscription agent is a person or firm acting as a liaison between the subscribing library and the publishers. Such an agent may also be called a vendor or a dealer. The advantages of acquiring periodicals through agents are:
• Much paper work on accounting by the library can be avoided since orders are placed in bulk and payment is effected against consolidated bills of the agent.
• Agents are more familiar with the peculiarities of individual publishers than the library, and they can act accordingly. There are also disadvantages:
• Some argue from experience that many agents do not honour the contractual agreements entered into between themselves and the libraries,
• Periodicals received through agents become more expensive for the library as they take handling charges, and do not allow the library the benefits of concessional prices or discounts allowed by publishers.
• There can be some time gap between the termination of one contract and the creation of another. As a consequence, timely renewal of subscription cannot be effected and the library is exposed to the risk of broken files.
• Some agents may not remit the subscription to the publishers in time although they have collected the amount from the library. The publishers will resume supply of the journals only after payments are effected. Here again, there is the risk of incomplete volumes.
However, these disadvantages can be remedied to a considerable extent if proper care is taken in the appointment of the agent. Prompt, regular and reliable service should be the chief criterion in the choi6e of the agent. There are agents with a good reputation and publishers are happy to deal with such agents. Therefore, the choice of the agent is the crucial factor in the agency method of periodicals' procurement.