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Walls come tumbling down!

24 June 2024 • Kieran Prince, international sales manager

Why open with the title of a Style Council song from the ‘80s? Because OpenAthens integrates with identity and access management services and breaks down barriers that make it harder for publishers to develop business in academic sectors, says Kieran Prince.

Integration with business-to-consumer identity and access management services

It may not be widely known, but OpenAthens integrates with a number of popular business-to-consumer (B2C) identity management platforms, including Auth0, Okta and Amazon Cognito. This offers publishers who rely on these platforms a straightforward, effective way to build new business at scale with academic libraries.

Auth0, Okta and Amazon Cognito were developed for B2C applications where each individual service user signs up and pays for their own subscription. Examples of B2C services include news media like the Financial Times (FT) and streaming services such as Spotify.

To federate, or not to federate

When the customer is a library, service providers often find things work differently. Academic libraries usually prefer to work with providers who offer a federated access management solution. Federated authentication creates a trusted relationship between all members of the federation, and in a library context this allows patrons to access content from many providers signing in just once, using their institutional credentials. It is the gold standard for academic libraries aspiring to offer a quality experience and the freedom to browse through the richest possible resources.

Nonetheless, some publishers, especially those whose focus has been mainly B2C, don’t support federated access.

Quick fix?

If you are a provider, does this sound like your current situation? While your chosen platform might not support federated approaches it may offer a kind of solution if you just want to dip your toe into academic markets. For example, Auth0 and Okta can provide a 1:1 security assertion markup language (SAML) connection that allows you to integrate directly with each customer’s identity provider.

However, setting the 1:1 connection up and maintaining it requires ongoing technical support, both from you as the provider and from your library customers. Often, academic librarians don’t have the time, the necessary technical skills (or both) to sustain this. And we’re hearing from an increasing number of providers that it was OK when they are managing a handful of institutional subscriptions, but as their academic customer base has grown it has become too demanding.

Long-term solution

OpenAthens Keystone is middleware that offers a simple answer.

As a consumer-facing organization using the Auth0, Okta or Amazon Cognito identity management platforms you may already be using OpenID Connect (OIDC) as an authentication layer. If you are, OpenAthens Keystone allows you to use OIDC via your chosen platform to take part in SAML federations around the world. If you aren’t using OIDC it is easy to implement.

This opens up a wealth of business opportunities: the OpenAthens Federation itself is used by 3,000 academic libraries worldwide and you will be able to participate in other federations, too.

Taking care of the technical stuff

Implementing OpenAthens Keystone means you don’t have to integrate directly with customers via 1:1 connections. It is a managed service and we can help you get started. We take care of ongoing maintenance and updates and we can support you with onboarding new library customers.

We’ll even help you promote your content within the OpenAthens Federation. And you should find it easier to convert new business from large libraries once you can support federated access.

 Breaking down barriers to knowledge

At OpenAthens we’re all about breaking down barriers to knowledge and making it easier for end users to access rich, high-quality content from the widest possible range of sources.

The last word (for now) goes to Paul Weller: “things can change. Yes, and walls can come tumbling down”.

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Want to know more?

If you have any further questions or want to hear more on this, please get in touch with our OpenAthens account managers.

Contact our account managers