Lorcan Dempsey suggests the difference between the rights of ownership of copyright protected materials and licensing are not as different as one might at first image:
What this means is that a large part of library collections is still in copyright. The library ‘owns’ the cost of storing it, shelving it, keeping it at the right temperature, and so on. It can be shared and borrowed in its current form. However, the library does not ‘own’ it to the extent that they can freely re-format it and allow it to be used by many parties.
In this sense, the gap between the materials that libraries ‘own’ and the materials that libraries license is smaller than we are used to thinking about.
His point is well-taken. I especially appreciate his inclusion of the ongoing cost of storing and preserving the item. What he’s describing may be more akin to a “lease-to-own” plan. If the library (or individual that purchases the book) keeps a book long enough, the rights of ownership do eventually include the right to copy, digitize, etc. The work eventually moves into the public domain. But the cost is quite high.
Scott Bennett’s article and cost analysis, Just-in-Time Scholarly Monographs builds in more detail case models to compare what he calls “Just-in-Time” versus “Just-in Case” models for libraries. “Just-in-case” strategies would acquire books in case someone might need them. “Just-in -time” strategies acquire a book only when it is needed. Nearly 10 years old, Bennett’s cost models continue to provide a helpful model for modeling the cost of various strategies for providing ready access to materials.
I’ve been thinking about how to control the cost of housing a book for the long-term, and retrieval of that book for use by library users. The cost of digitizing books has decrease in recent months. One of my primary costs is retrieval of books shelved off-site. I recently calculated it cost us over $50 to retrieve and return an item from off-site shelving.
Shifting to digital access to these materials may be more a more cost effective means of providing access to lesser used materials.