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33
that, for a service unit to operate at a
surplus, they have to account for the sale
of rights as part of their operation. Very
few of the institutions interviewed made
more money from the sale of the
medium, whether analogue or digital,
than it cost in creation, management or
service provision. The only apparently
profitable part of the transaction was the
sale of the right to use the material in a
commercial publication. All institutions
sold rights, but only a few allowed that
revenue to be directly linked to the
actual service provision of creating,
managing and delivering the media to
the consumer. This suggests that, at least
in financial terms, the message is more
valuable than the medium.
H
ere we have only been able to
summarise some of the basic
findings of our research. The full report
of this study is available at
http://heds.herts.ac.uk/mellon/
charging_models.html
the move to digital delivery and access.
T
he maturity of business practice in
the interviewed institutions seemed
to divide neatly along the lines of the
national libraries, museums and galleries
having the clear lead, with public libraries
and university libraries just starting to
develop their practices significantly in this
area. There is, however, a marked lack of
clear commercially led business planning
and control in most institutions surveyed.
This is not to suggest that they are badly
managed, but that the financial exploita-
tion of the medium is not the foremost
priority.
T
he statistical results of the survey
indicate a definite pricing trend,
which suggests that digital items will
continue to become cheaper for the
consumer to purchase than the analogue
equivalent. There are a number of reasons
suggested by this study to explain this
phenomenon:
- The institutions are deliberately trying
to encourage the consumer to purchase
digital rather than analogue.
- may be because the cost of creation
(although not necessarily quantified) is
perceived as being cheaper for digital
than for analogue.
- The cost of making a copy for delivery
of a digital item is distinctly cheaper
for the institution than the consumable
costs involved in delivering analogue
items.
- Smaller institutions are entering the
market for the first time because the
option to create surrogates via digital
means has become viable due to
reducing equipment costs at the entry
level. They can respond to consumer
demand for the first time at lower cost.
- Digitisation projects and external
funding for digitisation are leading to a
body of digital images being available
for the first time, which can then be
exploited with almost no additional
outlay. For analogue items every copy
means a consumable outlay.
- The institutions are not yet passing on
the cost of data storage or digital
preservation as these are not yet
understood well enough to become
part of the financial accounting chain.
The Web Case
T
he fact that 72.5% of the surveyed
institutions had a Website offering
the service in some manner, and that
25.5% are showing thumbnail views to
aid consumer selection, is an indication of
the growing confidence in the Internet
and digital means of delivering services.
This seems bound to expand and to
mature with better information for the
consumer available online to aid their
purchase decisions and possibly more
e-commerce to speed the sale of items.
Indeed, the provision of images on the
Web does not seem to reduce the poten-
tial income of those interviewed, but has
been beneficial to the sale of rights to use
and to the user base in promoting the
cultural collections of the institution.
T
he results clearly suggest that digital
provides a better platform to pro-
mote the collection to a wider national
and international audience than analogue.
Most institutions interviewed planned to
increase the number of thumbnail or
screen-sized images available at no cost to
the user. Co-operative strategies between
institutions were also promoted as a way
forward. All were concerned to retain the
rights to the high-quality, high-resolution
images and to assert their rights in any
items available on the Internet.
A
mong the clearest conclusions it is
possible to draw from this study is