Economics and Usage of Digital Libraries: Byting the BulletSkip other details (including permanent urls, DOI, citation information)
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A Digital Future
Scholarly journals render at least three services: research communication, archiving, and quality certification. Digital technology offers the potential to transform the first two by providing instantaneous access to current and past research. With modest investments in computer hardware and software, global scientific communities can dramatically lower the costs of exchanging information. Though these innovations might seem to threaten the future of the traditional journal, the latter's role as a quality filter may be sufficient to preserve its existence, albeit in modified form. Although it is possible to conceive of new mechanisms for evaluating journal quality, e.g. measuring the number of hits generated by a journal website, it seems likely that the existing expert-based system for assessing new research will survive.
Commercial publishers have begun to exploit these new opportunities by bundling their individual journal titles and providing libraries with electronic access to article databases. In doing so, the economics of commercial publishing may change in (subtle) ways. Portfolio size will still matter, but the number of journals may matter less than the total article population. Digital technology will make it feasible to control, monitor and price access in new and myriad ways, suggesting that sophisticated price discrimination schemes could be observed someday. The prospect of bundling and price discrimination, of course, will inevitably raises antitrust issues. A few, large portfolios might reduce transactions costs for libraries yet have the potential for influencing new entry as well as pricing.