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I cannot resist contributing to the fascinating debate started by Scott
Wicks. It would be hypocritical of me to deny the force of the argument for
the demise of ILL as I myself used a similar argument, I think in 1990, to
predict the closure of the British Library Document Supply Centre by the
year 2000. You can imagine that I was not very popular with the British
Library! Obviously I was wrong on my timing and I think that is my main
response to the current debate. We can see the way scholarly communication
is developing but the major changes are taking much longer to happen than we
hope or fear.

In relation to ILL, we are going to have large quantities of paper around
that users in other libraries are going to want access to for many years to
come. Even if everything went electronic today, there is still a huge trade
in older books and journal articles to keep the system going. And even for
electronic material, what I think we are seeing developing is not one single
route to obtain the text but a variety of routes with users making choices
according to price and level of service. So electronic ILL for lesser-used
material may still have a stall in the market.

The final two-pennyworth from me is that if ILL disappears on the basis of
libraries or end-users obtaining journal articles direct from publishers
this carries far bigger risks for publishers than it does for libraries.
Frankly I do not think many publishers would survive under that scenario,
because I very much doubt whether their income from document delivery would
come anywhere near their income from subcriptions. As with my prediction
about the British Library, I shall be happy to be proved wrong!

Fred Friend 

Frederick J. Friend, Librarian, University College London,
Gower Street, London, England WC1E 6BT.
Direct dial telephone: +44 171 380 7090
Fax: +44 171 380 7373
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