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Economics, sustainability, and the cooperative model in digital preservation

Tyler O. Walters (Library and Information Center, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia, USA)
Katherine Skinner (Educopia Institute and MetaArchive Cooperative, Atlanta, Georgia, USA)

Library Hi Tech

ISSN: 0737-8831

Article publication date: 15 June 2010




This paper aims to examine the emerging field of digital preservation and its economics. It seeks to consider in detail the cooperative model and the path it provides toward sustainability as well as how it fosters participation by cultural memory organizations and their administrators, who are concerned about what digital preservation will ultimately cost and who will pay.


The authors cast light on the decisions that administrators of cultural memory organizations are making on a daily basis – namely, to preserve or not to preserve their digital collections. They assert that either way, a decision is being made, costs are incurred, and consequences are being levied. The authors begin by exploring the costs incurred by cultural memory organizations if they do not quickly establish digital preservation programs for their digital assets. They move then to look to the digital preservation field's preliminary findings regarding the costs of preserving digital assets and who should ideally subsidize this investment.


The authors describe one economically sustainable digital preservation model in practice, the MetaArchive Cooperative, a distributed digital preservation network that has been in operation since 2004. The MetaArchive has built its economic sustainability model and has experienced successes with it for over five years.


There are very few studies or articles in the literature that review studies on the economics of digital preservation and apply them to digital preservation initiatives in action. This article provides that application and further articulates why cultural memory organizations should invest themselves and learn how to provide for the preservation of their own digital collections.



Walters, T.O. and Skinner, K. (2010), "Economics, sustainability, and the cooperative model in digital preservation", Library Hi Tech, Vol. 28 No. 2, pp. 259-272.



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Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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