Here is an interesting post from Library Renewal that includes some interesting, albeit rough data. I'm intrigued, of course, by the breakdown of efficiency and cost, resulting in the "deadweight" graph below. I think, however, that we librarians (and other consumers) suffer from the mistaken belief that the cost to produce an item directly impacts the market price. This is based solely on what the buyers are willing to pay. We can lament the commercial publishers like Elsevier and Random House for raising prices, but as long as libraries are willing to pay these prices, they will not decrease.
While there are some interesting and thought-provoking thoughts and arguments, there are some with which I find confusing. For instance, the author, Jonathan Chambers, states that "publishers and libraries can ensure that the economics of e-book lending is no better or worse for publishers or libraries than the lending of other library materials." But he then supports the concept of limited number of checkouts, which violates this principle.
However, the key points that Jonathan makes which I would like to highlight include:
We need to get our professional organizations to take the lead in developing a solution
The solution should unlock the connection of content with device - this didn't work for music and video, and it won't work for e-books
We need new measures of usage and value (starting with his cost per circulation)
There is one more point I'd like to add - the library community needs to make our value to both the people we serve and the publishers known. Those who make decisions (to lower taxes or raise prices) may not see the long-term benefit of providing e-books to our members. And the first step towards that end is to collect and analyze the data that documents this value.
Anyhow, this piece is a good read...
$2 BILLION FOR $1 BILLION OF BOOKS: THE ARITHMETIC OF LIBRARY E-BOOK LENDING: