There’s a business proposition that we think the New York City Public Library, and other similar large research institutions, are missing:
What if I were not a resident of NY City? What if I were in Wisconsin? Now let’s say that the book I was looking for was critical to my research. (Here’s a secret about book writers doing research: They believe that EVERY book is critical to their research, most especially those ones they can’t get their hands on right away.) What would I be willing to pay for 30 pages of juicy content?
In answer, here are the services that the NYPL could provide…
1. Research assistance to identify the pages in the book critical to the research. ($70/hr, estimated time: 30 min)
2. Scanning services to digitize those pages. ($35/hr, estimated time 1 minute per page, estimated 30 pages.)
3. Rental of secure digitized document, delivered to your inbox, 15 uses permitted (NYPL already has this policy with audio books.) $15.
4. Total Cost: $70. Yes. I would be willing to pay that. In fact, a research budget of $500 on a book is a very reasonable cost. That gets me seven researches with NYPL. That’s a LOT of good content.
For the project outlined above, The NYPL didn’t have to invest in any new technology. Until demand built up, it is likely that existing staff could handle the requests. They could also easily be outsourced. In addition, the NYPL now gets a lot of digitized content they didn’t have before. This works especially well with articles, which are self contained. But maybe the person scanning a portion of abook might scan more than the client requested, netting a whole chapter. Now, there is no up-front cost to renting this digital download again.