We have recently been asked how much vendors charge for producing a CD-ROM and a limited number of copies. The answer is not a simple one because vendors have different approaches to pricing. The most common is to separate pricing into the various tasks to be performed: data formatting, mastering, check-disc service, and replication.
Data formatting usually costs a minimum of $500 if the data is submitted on a medium and in a format with which the vendor is familiar. Nine-track, open-reel tape in MARC format is familiar to almost every vendor. Also widely accepted now are 4mm DAT cartridge tape, 8mm Exabyte cartridge tape, and WORM disks. Most vendors are reluctant to accept floppies. Many vendors impose a surcharge for large files, with "large" being defined as anything over 20,000 records to anything over 100,000 records. It is in this area that prices differ most.
Mastering of a single CD-ROM disc usually costs a minimum of $1,100 for ten day service. One day service is available, but it costs a minimum of $2,500 per disc.
A check disc, an unlabeled pre-production disc made from the actual production master, costs $750. It allows the client to check the product before replication is begun. A client usually is allowed the option of one remastering to correct errors as part of the mastering and check disc fees.
Replication, which normally takes ten days unless a premium is paid, usually costs $1.40 per disc, plus $.30 for each ''jewel box,'' the clear plastic case in which CD-ROM discs are now usually packaged. To these figures must also be add shipping costs of approximately $.75 per disc. Some vendors require that a minimum number of copies be replicated: as few as five to as many as 50.
A typical cost for five copies of a CD-ROM containing 50,000 bibliographic records is $3,500. If a library requires the vendor to store records between editions of the CD-ROM, there usually are storage charges. Subsequent editions usually cost 10 percent less than the initial production.
The Library Corporation, probably the largest CD-ROM producer specializing in the library market, has a unique approach to pricing. It charges a $250 set-up charge and $.01 per record for tape processing and disk mastering. Copies of the disk are made available at $500 each, including access software. The cost for five copies containing 50,000 bibliographic records would, therefore, be $3,250. While the pricing is advantageous for libraries needing only a few copies, those that need many copies would be better off with a more conventional pricing scheme. Industry-wide, prices for CD-ROM services have dropped by half in the past two years. Further price reductions are not anticipated in the near future.