Economics of Digital Information: Collection, Storage and Delivery

Charles Oppenheim (Loughborough University)

The Electronic Library

ISSN: 0264-0473

Article publication date: 1 April 2000




Oppenheim, C. (2000), "Economics of Digital Information: Collection, Storage and Delivery", The Electronic Library, Vol. 18 No. 2, pp. 137-146.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

This slim (110 pages) hardback follows the tradition of Howarth Press in reproducing a special issue of one of their journals as a stand‐alone hardback book. In this case, the journal is Volume 24, No. 4 of Journal of Library Administration. The text comprises eight papers presented at a conference on the theme of economics in Oklahoma in March 1997, together with an editor’s introduction and an index.

The book’s title is misleading. The papers, which are very variable in quality, cover wider themes than the economics of digital information. They cover collection, preservation and dissemination of digital information but, with one notable exception, do not cover economic issues at all. However, in one regard it is much narrower than the stated theme. The authors only consider issues from the point of view of academic libraries. National and special libraries are ignored. Thus, a better title would be “Digital collection, storage, delivery and economics for academic libraries”.

Although Sul Lee edited the book, in practice he seems to have done little. His introduction is a brief recap of the contents of each paper, without any critical evaluation of them, and he provides no setting the scene, or rounding up. He also noted that the “wonderful discussion [in the conference] could not be reproduced in this volume”, to which I would reply: why not? Other publishers do it. The method of citing references at the end of each chapter is inconsistent; in one case, the same item receives two completely different ways of being cited in two different chapters. Some journal citations did not include page numbers, making checking the reference or ordering it by interlibrary loan difficult. The editor, and Howarth Press, experienced as they are in LIS matters, should be ashamed of themselves for such mistakes.

The authors assume their readers are from the USA, and name drop legislation and organisations on the assumption that readers will know what they are referring to. This reader sometimes did not. One author also annoyingly cited unpublished materials in his list of references. Why bother?

The issues covered include: strategy associated with digitisation; licence negotiation; charging models; experiences of consortia; and preservation issues. Only the chapter by Getz – by far the best in the book – addresses economic questions. He discussed an interesting economic model for the storage and retrieval of digital information.

Bearing in mind the title of the book, and the fact that one chapter is devoted to the topic, it is symptomatic that the index has no entries for any of the following topics: economics; cost(s); value; budget; or finance. It’s not that these topics are not covered; it’s just that the indexer failed to index properly.

Overall, then, the book provides a general, if already dated, overview of management issues to do with digitisation, and provides in one paper an excellent starting model for consideration of the issues associated with the economics of digital information. However, a good text on the economics of digital information has yet to appear.

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