A new CLIR Report, The Idea of Order: Transforming Research Collections for 21st Century Scholarship includes a report, “On the Cost of Keeping a Book,” by Paul Courant and Matthew “Buzzy” Nielsen. This report examines the costs of keeping physical books (pbooks) and electronic books (ebooks) and finds a significant cost savings in ebooks over print-based libraries.
Particularly worth noting is the statement on the overall cost savings when digitizing pbooks and then storing them as ebooks:
If the cost of digitization is less than the difference in present value between print storage and digital storage, adding back in the cost of maintaining a shared print archive, there will be a net gain to the university sector of digitizing print collections and using the digitized versions for access. For most of our estimates of the cost of ebook and pbook storage, these conditions would hold. If another party, for example, Google or the Internet Archive, undertakes the digitization and provides the access, the argument becomes all the stronger.