Report on Roundtable Discussion on Business Models for the NSDL

February 2001

Submitted by Kate Wittenberg, Project Director
Director, Electronic Publishing Initiative at Columbia (EPIC)
Senior Executive Editor, Columbia University Press

On February 28th, 2001, we held a Roundtable Discussion on Business Models for the NSDL. The participants represented the major stakeholders in the NSDL community, including an author, a society publisher, a library representative, a user, an information technologist, and a K-12 school administrator. The discussion was led by Kate Wittenberg, Director of the Electronic Publishing Initiative at Columbia and project PI.

The discussion began with statements from participants concerning the priorities for the NSDL business plan, and included the following comments:

  1. Universal access at low cost as well as the sustaining of high quality resources and tools will make the library valuable.

  2. The Business models should support ongoing investment on the part of both users and contributors.

  3. Business models must be geared towards achieving a surplus rather than simply cost-recovery. Revenue sources must be as stable as possible to allow long term development of the library.

  4. Any business model must recognize the rights of the creators and the needs of the consumers.

  5. The NSDL must think hard about how someone might use this material before considering business plans.

Conclusions that emerged as a result of the discussion included the following:

We will develop and present a series of possible business models for comments by the community. We will then present these models for discussion at another Roundtable in the fall of 2001 and then develop a revised set of recommendations for the NSDL to consider.