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RE: eBooks in Libraries a Thorny Problem, Says Macmillan CEO

The trouble with usage-based pricing with respect to knowledge is 
that it inevitably provides a disincentive to use.

If e-books are sold to libraries on a usage basis, then one way 
for a cash-strapped university to save money is to discourage 
use, for example by not allowing walk-in users rights to access 
e-books, or limiting the number of e-books an undergraduate 
student can access.

Usage-based pricing can be useful when we are dealing with 
resources that are of necessity limited in nature:  electricity, 
gas, photocopies in the library.  But this makes no sense, and is 
counter- productive, when applied to scholarly knowledge in 
electronic form. Here, reducing dissemination decreases the value 
of the resource.

Selected experiments may have limited generalizability.  A 
library that would support walk-in and unlimited use with 
usage-based pricing might well be more willing to share the 
results of an experiment, than a library with significant 
budgetary problems that would feel compelled to limit usage. 
Also, the pressure to limit usage might not be seen in an 
experimental situation, but only after such a model was in 
widespread use.

For a broader treatment of this topic, see my book chapter, "The 
implications of usage statistics as an economic factor in 
scholarly communications", available through E-LIS at: 

Heather Morrison, MLIS