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

3.10 Costs and pricing

3.10.1 A publisher's view of pricing

With regard to materials in hard copy form, publishers have long had an understanding of the essential factors which must guide their policy on income generation. In particular, they have known that possession of the item, or local access to it with an ease almost equivalent to possession, has brought benefits in terms of convenience which it has been virtually impossible to obtain in any other way. It is only recently that the marked improvements in the technical quality and the availability of fax have begun to alter that picture substantially. (A service such as ADONIS, while also clearly altering the possibilities, is beginning to carry the product into the electronic publication field, even though some real differences do remain.) Publishers certainly remain unhappy that the production of photocopies from remotely located hard copy originals (typically by document supply services) does, in their view, inhibit some reasonable opportunities for the generation of income for the support of the basic product. On the other hand, copyright licensing and single copy royalty arrangements have begun to generate some revenue from this kind of activity.

In the electronic environment, distance and accessibility are totally disconnected. However remotely located a particular product may be, if the networking arrangements and equipment are adequate, it can be accessed as easily as if it were stored in the same room. Furthermore, a particular product need only be available in one electronic copy and, given the right supporting hardware, adequate networking and appropriate end-user equipment, this single copy could in principle meet the needs of the whole world. It would be understandable if, in these circumstances, publishers were to press for an income generation model based on each individual transaction or use rather than on the concept of payment for "bundles of use" which could be said to lie at the heart of the traditional journal subscription.

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