To test this proposition a comparison was made between online and CD‐ROM costs in several heavily used databases. Among other factors considered were funding methods, staff investment, end‐user training, user access and cost recovery. The case of one South African academic library was examined in detail; the approaches of some other South African academic libraries were briefly touched on. Finally, although CD‐ROM was found to be more economic than online searching in the long term, the real problem would appear to be that South African academic libraries, in acquiring CD‐ROM, would be forced to choose, not between CD‐ROM and online, but between CD‐ROM and hard‐copy databases.
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