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    Individual and Shared Costs and the Role of Information Intermediaries

    The costs for information products and services can be categorized into private and shared costs or the costs of individual demand and public demand for a good. Private costs are the costs to an individual or consumer of his purchase of a good or service. Private costs include the costs of a personal subscription, personal home computer, photocopying papers, and downloading and printing information from the Internet. Shared costs are the costs of information products purchased for public use. Shared costs include the costs of library goods and services. The costs of library goods and services are shared among patrons through tuition payments, tax revenue, membership fees or other sources of revenue used to support the library.

    Information intermediaries also have what can be considered private and shared costs. A subscription to a print or electronic database can be considered a private cost to the library, paid from the library's budget, although it is a shared cost to the library's patrons. The fixed cost of producing the database or print journal that is purchased by several libraries is a shared cost among the subscribing libraries. Each subscribing library pays for a share of the fixed costs of production.

    The costs of digital information in a networked environment are shared. On the Internet, the costs of reproduction and distribution are zero. The fixed costs of production and storage are, by definition, shared among the patrons or information intermediaries that purchase access.