October 12, 2007

Microfilm Primer: Why Microfilm Publishing Still Pays…in More Ways Than One

Previous Post: Microfilm Publishing Primer: Rumors of Its Death

The purchase of any good or service requires an agreement on the need for it between the seller and the buyer. Microfilm publishers and customers are no different in that regard. The substance of that agreement rests on the following reasons.

  1. Microfilm is a preservation medium, capable of lasting hundreds of years with proper care;
  2. It is relatively inexpensive to duplicate;
  3. Although cumbersome to use, the basic technology to view the data is simple, requiring little more than a light and a lens;
  4. Security of the original material from theft or wear and tear is supplied without having to restrict access to the content;
  5. Space savings can be very real, especially for libraries in metropolitan areas where the cost of new space can be formidable unless you resort to an annex site.

Unfortunately, while these reasons may explain why microfilm is still a useful medium to own, it does not explain why we need commercial micropublishers. After all, many libraries and archives own microfilm equipment for the capture of data internally—for the very reasons stated above. So why micropublish?

Here is where a second set of reasons come into play.

  1. Micropublishers bear not only the cost of creating the microfilm set, but may even finance improvements to conservation of the original materials; creation, correction, or deepening of the collection’s cataloging; and duplication and dissemination of the microfilm set.
  2. Micropublishers raise the visibility of the original collection through its sales and marketing efforts, thereby augmenting the source institution’s reputation, informing scholarly users about the collection’s existence, and placing in users’ hands to hard-to-access content.
  3. Micropublishers serve as an added layer of security for the long-term preservation of the content by serving as a back-up repository for master or print negatives of the microfilm set.
  4. Micropublishers become a revenue source—through royalty payments—for the source institution.

This added layer of reasons draws on the muscle of the marketplace to fund creation of the microfilm and motivate the micropublisher to preserve and disseminate the content in this format. And this is no small matter. I have witnessed firsthand what can happen to microfilm collections that were born without the lever of the market to ensure their proper creation and care. Here are just two stories...

No comments: