Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Economics of University e-Libraries

Inside Higher Ed:
E-books are cheaper across the board — most notably in space and maintenance. Courant and Nielsen don’t get into precise modeling for e-book storage, but they note that the digital media repository Hathi Trust stores five million copies at $0.15 per volume, per year (that cost could rise to $0.40 for color volumes). Not only can e-book databases put many more books at scholars’ fingertips, but the medium seems intuitively suited for long-term storage: “While [print] books deteriorate with use, the reliability of e-books tends to be improved with use,” Courant and Nielsen write. (Though, as Henry and Spiro note, as technology evolves preservationists face a challenge in making sure e-books remain compatible with the hardware used to access them.)

“Where it is legally and functionally possible to make the move to electronic storage and use of the working copies of academic materials, there is substantial economic gain,” Courant and Nielsen add.
But not everybody is happy.

More: The New York Times recently featured a debate, Do school libraries need books?



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