There may be other ways to attack the problem of price inflation of scholarly periodicals. Some hope arises from the production cost differences between print and electronic periodicals. The marginal cost of each added print copy diminishes steadily from the second to the n th copy, whereas for electronic publications, the marginal cost of the second and subsequent copies is approximately zero. Although distribution is not quite zero for each additional copy, since computer resources can be strained by volume of access, the marginal cost is so close to zero that technical solutions to the problem of unauthorized redistribution for free of pirated copies might provide an incentive for publishers in the electronic domain to distribute equitably the cost of the first copy across all consumers. If the total cost of production of the electronic publications is lower than it would be for printed publication, some publishers may share the savings with consumers. However, there is no certainty that they will, because profit maximizers will continue to be profit maximizers. Therefore, it is appropriate to look for a decoupled solution lying in the hands of consumers.
In the meantime, the outcomes of this research project will include a test of the
benefits of consortial access versus ownership. In addition, earlier work on price discrimination will be extended with this cross-discipline study to determine whether electronic telecommunications offers hope of relief from monopoly power of publishers.
The author wishes to acknowledge with thanks the financial support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the participation of several colleagues from libraries of the Associated Colleges of the South. Thanks also to my associate Tanya Pinedo for data gathering and analysis. All errors remain the responsibility of the author.