Crisis: A crucial or decisive point or situation; turning point — American Heritage Dictionary

Motivational speakers like to talk about how the Chinese word for "crisis" is made up of the ideograms for "danger" and "opportunity." If a crisis is indeed a turning point, then electronic publishing is a crisis, challenging us to rethink what we do and how we do it, turning in new directions. As things turn, sometimes the center cannot hold (as Yeats reminded us). Things sometimes fall apart, offering both danger and opportunity.

Crisis came to JEP this month, in the form of a security hole. In the process of repairing that hole, all of our Web site's files became corrupted. We routinely back up JEP every month, but somehow that procedure was not done at all in 2000, so we lost our entire March issue. The only copies we had were the original files from the authors. We were faced with having to reedit and reformat the entire issue.

Desperate to avoid that daunting prospect, Eve Trager, JEP's Managing Editor, discovered that Google caches many of the pages it offers in its search engine "as a back-up in case the page's server temporarily fails," according to its FAQ. (You may see what a JEP file looks like on Google at [formerly]) Google features sites that are linked to by other sites. Because JEP's authors are so often quoted, JEP is linked from lots of sites, and Google thought we were important enough to cache. (Or maybe they thought we were potentially irresponsible. I don't want to dwell on that thought.)

In any case, our crisis became an opportunity to address our archiving issues, and we turned our procedures around. Today we back up every issue, and between issues. And we have an off-site backup of the entire JEP site, just in case.

The authors of the articles in this issue of The Journal of Electronic Publishing see the crisis of electronic publishing as a turning point, an opportunity to expand our horizons, to change our businesses, to solve some of the problems that have long bedeviled us. Their ideas may seem dangerous to some of us, but they are also provocative, and they force us to respond. On exploring those ideas we might even find that we, too, see not danger but opportunity.

  • Conservation Ecology started three years ago with a series of grants, but editor C.S. (Buzz) Holling knew the grants would not last, so the journal had to come up with a new financial system. In Lessons for Sustaining Ecological Science and Policy Through the Internet he explains how that financial crisis helped the journal find a new opportunity.

  • Today most scholarly authors never get closer to their readers than an occasional letter to the editor. But as interactivity becomes more common, that could change. An opportunity or a danger? Jeffrey R. Young shows us what happens to the relationship between authors and readers when they participate in online chats in An Analysis of's Live Online.

  • Linda Beebe and Barbara Meyers are back on JEP's pages, this time to convince us that technology can put things back together, giving publishers more control over the publishing process. Their detailed explanations are available for your edification in Digital Workflow: Managing the Process Electronically.

  • Bruce Edmonds hopes that technology can finally free scholarly publishing from the dangers of today's peer-review processes, which depend so heavily on a paper-bound infrastructure. In A Proposal for the Establishment of Review Boards he puts forth an approach that sees opportunity to let readers make decisions about quality, using today's emerging technology.

  • Fair Use and Distance Learning in the Digital Age by Millison Smith looks at the dangers of applying old laws to the new challenges of the Internet. She evaluates two bills currently before the U.S. Congress, and urges their passage to open opportunities to telecommuting students.

  • Gail M. Hodge says that if we make digital archiving a part of the publishing process from the beginning, we will solve problems before they occur. Her Best Practices for Digital Archiving: An Information Life-Cycle Approach explains how one group suggests approaching it.

  • Finally, Thom Lieb weighs in with The X(HTML) Files, detailing the opportunities that XHTML offers to publishers seeking a migratory path from danger (HTML) to opportunity (XML).

This issue of JEP sees opportunity as well as danger in the e-publishing situation. What do you see? Record your thoughts for Potpourri.


— Judith Axler Turner

Judith Axler Turner may be reached by e-mail at