Economics and Usage of Digital Libraries: Byting the BulletSkip other details (including permanent urls, DOI, citation information)
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Commonly, journal cost analyses use subscription costs and ignore the operational costs associated with a journal collection. For example, White and Crawford (1998) undertook a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether acquiring Business Periodicals Online (BPO), a full-text database, was more cost-effective for supplying articles than obtaining articles in the database through interlibrary loan (ILL). They found that the out-of-pocket costs (ILL transaction costs versus the BPO subscription costs) were similar, but the level of service was much greater with BPO.
Hawbaker and Wagner (1996) also compute only subscription costs when comparing the costs of print subscriptions to online access of full-text. They conclude that, for a full-text business database, the University of the Pacific's library can offer more than twice as many journals for a 15 percent increase in expenditures.
The Electronic Libraries Programme (eLib, 2001) funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) in the United Kingdom, consists of a series of major library projects investigating issues of digital library implementation and integration. The guidelines for evaluation of the eLib projects call for "modelling of functional, cost, organisational and technical variables" as one of the desired components (Kelleher et al., 1996). Pricing models for electronic journal subscriptions, licensing agreements, and infrastructure requirements to provide access are themes that are explored in these projects. Each project tends to be fairly focused in terms of the range of digital content and services offered or the topic addressed. Many deal with organizational and management models that can serve as the basis for scaling up initiatives.
JSTOR (1998), which builds journal backfiles, does address building-related costs. One of the JSTOR objectives is "To reduce long-term capital and operating costs of libraries associated with the storage and care of journal collections." By guaranteeing online availability of backfiles, JSTOR not only makes these files more accessible, but also allows libraries to discard old journal runs without decreasing service to their users.
In an analysis completed several years ago Tenopir and King (2000) report the average cost of acquiring and maintaining a print journal collection to be $71 per title in academic libraries and $81 in special libraries. These are 1998 figures adjusted for inflation.
Odlyzko (1999) also focuses on non-subscription costs. He points out additional factors to consider in evaluating the impact of journal growth on libraries:
Journal subscription costs are only one part of the scholarly information system...internal operating costs of research libraries are at least twice as high as their acquisition budgets. Thus for every article that brings in $4,000 in revenues to publishers, libraries in aggregate spend at least $8,000 on ordering, cataloging, shelving, and checking out material, as well as on reference help. The scholarly journal crisis is really a library cost crisis. If publishers suddenly started to give away their print material for free, the growth of the literature would in a few years bring us back to a crisis situation.
Odlyzko's analysis shows that the library's non-subscription (i.e., operational) costs are on average double the subscription costs. His figures are derived from the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) statistics (Association of Research Libraries, 2000b). His is a macro level measurement that does not take into account, for example, the different processing costs for books and journals or library costs unrelated to the collections which might cause the non-subscription figure to be over-estimated. On the other hand, ARL statistics do not report the considerable costs associated with constructing and maintaining library buildings, a factor which if added to Odlyzko's number would lead to a higher estimate of non-subscription costs. Even if off by a factor of two, Odlyzko's estimate is astounding to consider, and points out the importance of looking at how these operational costs shift in the transition to an electronic model.