to the JSTORE initiative that is building a huge digital storehouse of journals' back-
files: <http://www.jstor.org>). Furthermore, the example highlights "what may become
more and more clearer, that what end users may be ready to pay for is not exactly what the
[institutional] providers feel is worthy of provision."
Moreover, and more pressing, the two examples should make clear, that a serious com-
petition is out there for libraries, in particular in the scholarly and educational sector.
Questia, which is the more impressive example, presents itself to students as "The Online
Library for all your study, research and paper writing needs".
Of course, today, the new online companies have only a small portion of all that a big
academic library can offer, especially older material that is only available in printed form.
That will become apparent to more and more students as they try to use the Web for
research, particularly on historical subjects. Others who think that they can find for example
articles of magazines of the pre-digital area online will have to be reminded, that for most
material there is a definite watershed and they cannot get everything on a computer.
Some librarians might shrug off competitive concerns, even though it's clear that many
students are doing more research at home and online these days.They often realise that the
overall in-house circulation is going up because with online catalogs students are also now
finding it easier to locate many relevant material in the actual library.Yet, if students,
teachers, and academics could have (almost) all they needed on their desktop or laptop
(including the features already offered by Questia) the choice between going to the library
or doing the work from the PC seems pretty clear.
It has to be noted that commercial publishers today are:
heavily investing in building up their digital collections,
concentrating content through acquisitions and mergers,
providing it to commercial aggregators and subscription based services (e.g.
trying to control the complete information chain, including software for delivery of
content, reference databases, and on-demand services.
Therefore, a conclusion might well be, that in the not to distant future, scholarly and
educational libraries will only play a relevant role in the digital world, once they have built
up their own digital collections from all available resources (e.g. by managing collections for
various parties in the publishing cycle as well as digitising parts of their collections).
According to Núria Gallart, FESABID, Spain, the perspective would be "that management
and ownership of digital collections, distributed all over the world, is the only way for
libraries to survive and to have a chance to fulfil their mission in the digital environment".
Competition for free access
An interesting factor in the drive to exploit cultural and scholarly is that there is also a
kind of competition to deliver content for free, with major institutions acting as e-
commerce "spoilers".The motives for providing high-value content for free can be very
different, including a strict "for free" policy, or to attract potential customers for other
offers.Yet, the basis is that the institution already has covered its costs through donations,
funding, or business revenues.
An example is the New York Public Library (NYPL) that has a global presence online,
with up to 25 million hits a month on the library's web site with readers coming from 179
different countries, and no intention to charge users with a library card for anything it