Replying to Jonathan's mail rather at random, since several people are
saying similar things.
1. 'Free resources can vanish any time.' But so can commercial ones,
which is why LOCKSS was created. This isn't an insoluble issue or one
unique to free resources.
2. 'Managing 100s of paid resources is difficult, managing 1000s of free
ones would be impossible'. But why on earth would you try? There are
many specialized free resources, only a few of which are likely to
provide material your particular library wants in its collection. Surely
you would select the ones you want, not least on grounds of reliability.
And on those grounds (longevity and reliability) you would end up using
Gutenberg in preference to any commercial supplier (not that I'm
suggesting you should)). Selection of commercial resources is done at
least in part by cost; selection of free ones can be done on more
3. 'There is no such thing as a free lunch'. Who said there was? But
resources which can be used freely have advantages over ones that can't.
On 05/19/11 15:44, Jonathan Rochkind wrote:
> Another problem with free online resources not just 'collection
> selection', but maintenance/support once selected. A resource hosted
> elsewhere can stop working at any time, which is a management challenge.
> The present environment is ALREADY a management challenge, of course.
> But consider the present environment: You subscribe to anywhere from a
> handful to around 100 seperate vendor 'platforms'. Each one can change
> it's interface at any time, or go down at any time, breaking your
> integration or access to it. When it does, you've got to notice (a hard
> problem in itself), and then file a support incident with the vendor.
> This is already a mess we have trouble keeping straight. But.
> Compare to the idea of hundreds or thousands or more different suppliers
> hosting free content, each one of which can change it's interface or go
> down at any time, and when you notice (still a hard problem, now even
> harder because you have more content from more hosts)... what do you do?
> One solution to this would be free content aggregators which hosted LOTS
> of free content on one platform (cutting down your number of sources to
> keep track of make sure they're working), and additionally, presumably
> for a fee, offered support services.
> Another direction would be not relying on remote platforms to host
> content, but hosting it internally. Which may be more 'business case'
> feasible with free content than with pay content -- the owners/providers
> dont' want to let us host the pay content locally. But hosting content
> locally comes with it's own expenses, the library needs to invest
> resources in developing/maintaining or purchasing the software (and
> hardware) to do that, as well as respond to maintenance issues with the
> local hosting.
> In the end, there's no such thing as a free lunch, as usual. "Free"
> content still isn't free for libraries to integrate with local
> interfaces and support well, whether that cost comes from internal
> staffing and other budgetting, or from paying a third party to help. Of
> course, some solutions are more cost efficient than others, not all are
> On 5/19/2011 9:31 AM, Bill Dueber wrote:
>> My short answer: It's too damn expensive to check out everything that's
>> available for free to see if it's worth selecting for inclusion, and
>> library's (at least as I see them) are supposed to be curated, not
>> My long answer:
>> The most obvious issue is that the OPAC is traditionally a listing of
>> "holdings," and free ebooks aren't "held" in any sense that helps
>> disambiguate them from any other random text on the Internet.
>> Certainly the
>> fact that someone bothered to transform it into ebook form isn't
>> of anything. Not everything that's available can be cataloged. I see
>> we paid for" not as an arbitrary bias, but simply as a very, very
>> useful way
>> to define the borders of the library.
>> "Free" is a very recent phenomenon, but it just adds more complexity
>> to the
>> existing problem of deciding what publications are within the library's
>> scope. Library collections are curated, and that curation mission is not
>> simply a side effect of limited funds. The filtering process that goes
>> deciding what a library will hold is itself an incredibly valuable
>> aspect of
>> the collection.
>> Up until very recently, the most important pre-purchase filter was the
>> that some publisher thought she could make some money by printing text on
>> paper, and by doing so also allocated resources to edit/typeset/etc.
>> For a
>> traditionally-published work, we know that real person(s), with
>> transparent goals, has already read it and decided it was worth the
>> to sink some fixed costs into the project. It certainly wasn't a perfect
>> filter, but anyone who claims it didn't add enormous information to the
>> system is being disingenuous.
>> Now that (e)publishing and (e)printing costs have nosedived toward $0.00,
>> that filter is breaking. Even print-on-paper costs have been reduced
>> enormously. But going through the slush pile, doing market research,
>> filtering, editing, marketing -- these things all cost money, and for the
>> moment the traditional publishing houses still do them better and more
>> efficiently than anyone else. And they expect to be paid for their
>> work, and
>> they should.
>> There's a tendency in the library world, I think, to dismiss the value of
>> non-academic professionals and assume random people or librarians can
>> do the work (see also: web-site development, usability studies, graphic
>> design, instructional design and development), but successful
>> publishers are
>> incredibly good at what they do, and the value they add shouldn't be
>> dismissed (although their business practices should certainly be under
>> Of course, I'm not differentiating free (no money) and free (CC0). One
>> imagine models where the functions of the publishing house move to a
>> work-for-hire model and the final content is released CC0, but it's not
>> clear who's going to pay them for their time.
>> On Thu, May 19, 2011 at 8:04 AM, Andreas Orphanides<
>> [log in to unmask]> wrote:
>>> On 5/19/2011 7:36 AM, Mike Taylor wrote:
>>>> I dunno. How do you assess the whole realm of proprietary stuff?
>>>> Wouldn't the same approach work for free stuff?
>>>> -- Mike.
>>> A fair question. I think there's maybe at least two parts: marketing and
>>> Marketing is of course not ideal, and likely counterproductive on a
>>> of measures, but at least when a product is marketed you get sales
>>> Even if they are designed to make a product or collection look as
>>> good as
>>> possible, it still gives you some sense of scale, quality, content, etc.
>>> I think bundling is probably more important. It's a challenge in the
>>> free-stuff realm, but for open access products where there is
>>> bundling (for
>>> instance, Directory of Open Access Journals) I think you are likely
>>> to see
>>> wider adoption.
>>> Bundling can of course be both good (lower management cost) and bad
>>> (potentially diluting collection quality for your target audience).
>>> But when
>>> there isn't any bundling, which is true for a whole lot of free stuff,
>>> you've got to locally gather a million little bits into a collection.
>>> I guess what's really happening in the bundling case, at least for free
>>> content, is that collection and quality management activities are being
>>> "outsourced" to a third party. This is probably why DOAJ gets decent
>>> adoption. But of course, this still requires SOME group to be willing to
>>> perform these activities, and for the content/package to remain free,
>>> either have to get some kind of outside funding (e.g., donations) or be
>>> willing to volunteer their services.