The choice of business model depends on the clients and goals of the national bibliography, the resources available to produce it, and the organisational or political context of the national bibliographic agency. For example, decisions on whether to charge for the bibliography or associated products may be affected by the ability and willingness of potential clients to pay. The particular prices and methods of charging may need to balance an ability to generate revenue with that of attracting (or not deterring) potential customers.

The business model should take account of the direct costs, such as marketing, production and distribution. The costs of implementing the national bibliographic service should be considered as capital costs and separated from the recurring costs for delivering the service. The extent to which indirect costs, such as claiming, cataloguing and overheads are included in the recurring costs will very much depend on the context in which the national bibliography is being created. The context will also determine the terms on which the national bibliography is offered.

Clients and Requirements

In order to select an appropriate business model an NBA should first identify its potential users and their requirements for a national bibliography.

Users can include:

  • Librarians, for purposes of bibliographic verification, acquisitions and copy cataloguing
  • Booksellers for bibliographic verification and ordering
  • Publishers as a marketing or promotional aid
  • Bibliographic utilities who remarket bibliographic records to libraries and the book trade for profit
  • General public as a general awareness tool for new publications
  • Historians, bibliographers and other researchers as an aid to research, both current and retrospective
  • International foreign researchers, libraries, publishers, booksellers who seek access to the publications of the country in question

Requirements can include:

  • A list of a country’s publications to support the country’s political or cultural goals or national identity
  • A comprehensive list of all titles published in a country, to provide a record of their existence and to unambiguously identify them
  • A comprehensive list of all publications for statistical purposes, for use in monitoring publishing as a cultural industry
  • A partial list of significant titles published in a country, for specialised uses or clients
  • A current awareness service to alert readers when publications in their sphere of interest are published in the country
  • A retrospective record of the publishing history of a country during the course of the country’s history

Charging for Services

A key question when determining the business model will be whether the national bibliography will be a free or priced service. The NBA should be realistic: it may be desirable to deliver a free service, but it may simply not be affordable. While the market for bibliographic information is unlikely to bear the price of full cost recovery, it may be feasible to recover direct costs. Government policy and national competition policy may determine whether and at what level a charge may be levied.

Some governments do not allow national bibliographic agencies, which are also government agencies, to keep the revenue generated by selling national bibliographic products. For these and other reasons, it is important to articulate the purpose and scope of the national bibliography before developing a business model.