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    The Cost of Microfiche

    The annual costs of microfiche storage and access at the University of Toronto are shown in Table 15.2. Cost per volume is based on a 216-page text, the average size of a text digitized in the Yale Open Book Project.[1] As with Table 15.1 these costs represent the average cost per unit for storage or access. Just as the cost of purchasing a book is not included in Table 15.1, the cost of purchasing the microfiche is not included in Table 15.2.

    Both the cost of storage per volume and the cost per use are significantly lower for microfiche than for rare books. This is not surprising since microfiche is intended to provide access to and storage of information at a lower cost than print.

    The cost per use is derived by dividing the total costs of microfiche storage and access by total use. As with Table 15.1, this assumes that the value of microfiche storage is for access to patrons. If salaries and equipment are the only costs for access, and 80 percent of salaries are for access, then the cost per transaction can be estimated as $3.75CD, which is comparable to estimates of the costs of book retrieval. Both retrieval functions are similar in that staff must locate, check out, and re-shelve the requested materials.

    Table 15.2: Annual Average Cost of Microfiche Storage and Access
    Cost Cost/volume Cost/use
    Construction, utilities and maintenance $170,527 $0.06 $2.71
    Salaries $251,602 $0.09 $4.00
    Equipment and supplies $34,423 $0.01 $0.55
    TOTAL $456,552 $0.16 $7.26
    NOTE: All costs are amortized with the exception that amortization for micrfiche readers used a 15-year life span. University of Toronto microtext use was 62,856 in 1997 for 3,387,777 unit stored in a room of 810 square meters.

    Figure 15.3 illustrates that microfiche costs are more salary intensive. Salaries constitute a larger percentage of the costs of microfiche than in the case of rare books. Rare books take up more space and therefore have a higher percentage of costs in construction, utilities and maintenance.

    Figure 15.3: Storage and Access Costs for MicroficheFigure 15.3: Storage and Access Costs for Microfiche

    Table 15.2 does not include the subscription price of the microfiche to the library. These costs are part of the economic cost of producing microfiche and are shown in Table 15.3: The Costs of Microfiche. By counting these costs in the production but not the purchase of the microfiche, we avoid double-counting these costs. The costs of microfiche production are shared costs. Library subscription fees, grants and donations are used to jointly finance the production of the microfiche as a public good.

    Table 15.3 includes all economic costs of microfiche production including the value of space The Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproduction uses at the National Library of Canada. While this space is donated to CIHM, it still represents an economic cost of producing microfiche. As with previous tables, the average cost of production is calculated by dividing total cost by the number of units. All costs are in Canadian Dollars.

    Table 15.3: Average Cost of Microfiche Production
    Cost Cost/fiche Cost/image Cost/volume
    Master Copies $150,000 $16.07 $0.22 $46.88
    Salaries $602,932 $64.58 $0.87 $188.43
    Equipment and supplies $125,880 $13.48 $0.18 $39.34
    Construction, utilities and maintenance $187,066 $20.04 $0.27 $58.46
    TOTAL (shared costs) $1,065,878 $114.17 $1.54 $333.11
    cost of microfiche reproduction and sales $236,092
    TOTAL COST $1,301,970
    Total cost per library (30-42 copies) $43,399-$30,999 $4.65-$3.32 $0.06-$0.04 $13.56-$9.69
    Annual cost per library (30-42 copies) $2,254-$1,487 $0.22-$0.16 $0.01-$0.00 $0.65-$0.46

    The first four rows of Table 15.3 show the cost of producing master copies of microfiche. The cost of producing master copies of microfiche is $114.17CD per fiche, $1.54CD per image, or $333.11CD per 216-page volume. This is the cost of producing a set of master copies that are then used to produce additional microfiche copies for distribution to subscribing libraries. The cost of the master copies is a shared cost for all subscribing libraries.

    If we compare the cost per volume of creating and storing a master microfiche copy relative to creating and storing a print copy, microfiche is expensive to create but has significant savings in storage ($0.16CD per volume per year) relative to print ($5.89CD). However, at an annual savings of $5.73CD per year, it would take over 50 years to cover the cost of creation ($333.11CD) if the master copies were created solely for the use of one library.

    Microfiche is produced by CIHM, not to have a single copy, but to provide multiple copies to libraries that would not otherwise have access to early Canadian literature. With a limited number of print copies, microfiche becomes a cost-effective alternative for providing access. CIHM produces several copies of each microfiche to sell as subscriptions for libraries throughout Canada, the United States, and the rest of the world. By purchasing a subscription, these libraries share the costs of the original microfiche production.

    CIHM produces about 30 copies each year for library subscriptions and additional copies of individual microfiche at an additional cost of $236,092CD. The last two rows in Table 15.3 show how these costs are shared among the subscribing libraries. If the full cost of microfiche production is averaged over the 30 copies, the cost of annual production is $43,399CD per library. This includes the shared costs of production plus the costs of making copies. If an additional 12 copies of each fiche are sold, the average cost is $30,999CD per library.

    The average cost per fiche, per image, and per volume for 30-42 copies are shown in the final three columns of Table 15.3. The sharing of the full costs of production among subscribing libraries reduces the cost to $0.04CD-$0.06CD per image or $9.69CD-$13.56CD per volume. This compares favorably to the cost of each library acquiring a printed manuscript. At an annual savings of $5.73CD per volume for storage and access relative to print for each library, it takes 1.7-2.4 years for the microfiche to cover the costs of creation ($9.69CD-$13.56CD).

    Once produced, it is anticipated that a microfiche copy of a text will last for 100 years. The purchase of microfiche is an investment in an archival copy of materials that is expected to provide access to patrons to the information for many years. If the cost of the microfiche is spread out or amortized over a 100-year period, then the annual cost of microfiche production is only $0.65CD-$0.46CD per 216-page volume per year. When this is added to the cost of storage from Table 15.2, the annual cost comes to $0.81CD-$0.62CD per volume per year for producing, storing, and providing access to a text in microfiche format.

    These costs indicate that when microfiche is produced in large numbers to accommodate several libraries, it costs significantly less to produce, store, and provide access to microfiche than to books. This shared cost per library declines further if the number of libraries acquiring subscriptions increases. In addition, the CIHM microfiche subscription provides access to a larger collection of texts than is likely to exist in any single library of rare books. These cost estimates show that microfiche is the more cost-effective alternative to library storage of print to provide patron access to out-of-print texts.