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The impact of electronic publishing on library services and resources in the UK

3.10.3 Frameworks for income generation

The two preceding paragraphs imply that some of the underlying factors which have helped to impose order on patterns of income generation for hard copy products cannot be effective in the electronic environment. There is already evidence that producers of electronic publications are trying to develop new frameworks of income generation and a period of experimentation is likely. As major players, libraries will want to identify where their most fundamental interests and the most fundamental interests of their parent institutions lie and to fight particularly for those. It will be an important achievement if this report can help to clarify those considerations.

3.10.4 Cost recovery models

One of the most important factors which could help towards the emergence of sensible and balanced structures of cost recovery is the use of normal market mechanisms. Unfortunately, market mechanisms are not very well structured at present. For example, when libraries obtain from other libraries copies of documents they do not have, it is very rare for the payments they make to include any contribution towards the upkeep of the original source publication. The method of procurement therefore involves a serious market distortion. In deciding whether it is more cost effective to buy (by subscription or purchase) than to pay for a photocopy, libraries are not making a true economic choice so far as the viability of the basic product is concerned. Similarly, the present economic pattern of supply of electronic products is seriously distorted, because most networks are provided as services which are free at the point of use, and most product producers assume the availability of end user equipment of adequate power and specification to support access to their product. Of course, there are other hidden cost factors, too, which ought not to be ignored, but they are often difficult to quantify or even to identify. This whole situation could benefit substantially from the development of cost recovery models. The help of competent economists with experience in this field would be required to identify the most important relevant factors.

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