Re: Electronic vs Print pricing comparison (Steve Black) Stephen Clark 24 Mar 1999 19:25 UTC

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 24 Mar 1999 12:51:12 -0500
From: Steve Black <blacks@ROSNET.STROSE.EDU>
Subject: Re: Electronic vs Print pricing comparison (Jason Eyre)

> From: Jason Eyre <Jason.Eyre@EPA.VIC.GOV.AU>
> Subject: Electronic vs Print pricing comparison
> The library for the Environment Protection Authority in Victoria,
> Australia,  is being encouraged to embrace electronic journals as a viable
> - and cheaper - alternative to the more traditional print variety, as well
> as being more environmentally-friendly (as less paper is used).

The jury is out, I think, on whether less paper is used; it depends on how
often articles are printed from the online source compared to how often
print journals are read without photocopying.  "Just in time" printing *may*
be more cost effective than "just in case" volumes on shelves, but I don't
think that has been proven.  It would probably vary considerably based on
local use patterns.
> What I want to ask you all is this: Are our perceptions founded? Are
> e-journals more expensive than print (in your own experience)?
By individual titles, yes, by aggregated collections, no.

>Can anyone point me to a recent, authoritative analysis of this issue?
No, but I'd love to see it myself.

>What are the relative advantages/disadvantages of electronic over print? Do
>any of you have experiences/examples that you can relate on this matter?
> > A rather broad-ranging question, I admit;. . .

Indeed!  Let me offer some opinions it in the context of Ranganathan's Five
Laws of Library Science:
1. Books [or journals] are for use.
Online sources score well on this, because once the licensing and technical
hurdles have been crossed, they're accessible to patrons.  That is, assuming
you have enough connections to avoid congestion.
2.  Books are for all; every reader his book.
For online, it's books/journals are for all *who can pay*.  This is a huge
issue with a bevy of ifs, ands, buts, and wherefores that have no easy
3.  Every book its reader.
The characteristics of search engines play a vital role here, as does the
role of librarians to train patrons to use full-text databases effectively.
I find some of them downright quirky, and the plethora of tools creates a
training nightmare.  So fulfilling "every item its reader" depends on
searchability and user expertise.
4.  Save the time of the reader.
This is the big forte of online journals.  Barring jammed printers, faulty
network connections, and the like, online full-text saves our patrons huge
amounts of time.  One of the drawbacks of this is many users ignore good
print sources, precisely because online access is so easy.
Still, if one analyzes the total social cost of print vs. online, the amount
of time online access can save readers weighs heavily in the equation,
especially if the users' time is valuable to the organization.
5.  A library is a growing organism.
On the one hand, adding online is a way for a library to grow.  But on the
other hand, most licensing agreements don't give the library ownership of
anything, so the collection doesn't really grow with the lease of online
access.  If the online product(s) the library subscribes to become
prohibitively expensive, or the content mutates away from the library's
needs, and the library cancels, the library is left with nothing.  I think
it's important to define your core collection, and maintain it in print for
at least a few more years.  If the online products prove to be stable,
affordable, and user-friendly five(?) years from now, then perhaps the most
important journals can be replaced, too.