Examining mobile print-on-demand as an alternative to image licensing to promote OpenGLAM adoption

Paper

Foteini Valeonti, UCL (University College London), UK

Although studies have demonstrated that OpenGLAM provides numerous benefits to participant institutions, such as the dissemination of collections and increased sponsorship opportunities (Kapsalis, 2016; Kelly, 2013), the movement’s adoption remains limited. For museums and galleries, the fear of losing image fees, poses as one of the main barriers for participation (Kapsalis, 2016), since image licensing remains the most widely adopted method for monetising digitisation, despite the fact that its profitability has repeatedly been questioned (Tanner, 2004; Grosvenor, 2018). On-demand printing provides an alternative for generating revenue from digitised collections; however, print-on-demand solutions for museums appear to have stalled in the last decade, remaining almost exclusively a privilege of the well-resourced institutions.

Α radically different implementation that takes advantage of emerging technologies (i.e. image recognition and progressive web applications) to provide a mobile print-on-demand solution for all museums with digitised collections is the Infinite Museum Store (IMS). In (Valeonti et al., 2018a) we presented the technical aspects and innovation features of IMS, as well as the results of a pilot study held at the State Museum of Contemporary Art (SMCA) in Thessaloniki, Greece, which demonstrated a significant potential for generating revenue from digitisation. Based on IMS, this paper examines mobile print-on-demand as an alternative solution for monetising digitisation, also exploring ways that smaller, not as well-resourced museums, can take advantage of on-demand printing to generate revenue from their digitised collections. With museums claiming that it is a “challenge . . . to keep on top of the large numbers of [image] requests” (Smith, 2009), developing alternative ways to monetise digitisation would not only allow more institutions to join OpenGLAM, but it would also contribute to improving their profitability.