There is much that has to be studied in these issues: Relatively little attention seems to have been given to comparing the costs of maintaining paper collections compared with the costs of maintaining electronic collections. If hardware costs and computing costs continue to come down, then presumably the costs of storing electronic documents must also be trending downward relative to the costs of storing paper documents. Similarly studies will need to be made of the costs and difficulties of accessing electronic documents remotely compared with accessing both locally-held and remote paper documents. Here again the same assumptions about cost trends would suggest a long-term cost trend favorable to electronic documents. For both types of documents the underlying problem is an “owning versus borrowing” trade-off, but the costs, costs trends, and acceptability appear to be different and to be changing.


Buckland, M. (1992). Redesigning library services: A manifesto. (chapter 6)American Library Association. Retrieved from

Since this was written, I still think little attention has been paid to the relative costs between paper and electronic collections. Also, in the two decades since Buckland wrote, “owning vs borrowing” has become “owning vs licensing” and has brought on a new slew of restrictions on what we may do with electronic materials.

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