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“One of the most exciting events of 1997 was the introduction at the Frankfurt Book Fair of the Digital Object Identifier, a system that will allow all of us to manage our intellectual-property rights in ways we probably can’t imagine today.”

Those prescient words are (ahem!) mine, introducing a 1997 article in JEP on the DOI System by Bill Rosenblatt. In 1997 we imagined that the DOI system would protect owners of copyrighted works by providing a standard way to get to (and, eventually, pay for) information in an electronic format—an electronic marketplace. What we did not imagine at the time was that the DOI would become an electronic tracking service, helping to guarantee that any electronic material with such an identifier could be found, no matter how many URL changes there had been, or how many times the home Web site had been updated, rearranged, and archived.

For scholars, this tracking across sources facilitates access to the literature behind the citations in research publications. That means whenever you come across a reference in JEP to an article that has a DOI, or when you come across a reference in another scholarly article to something in JEP, you can be sure that the link will work. Forever. This guarantee of immutability in linking is the strength of the DOI System today.

JEP has been redesigned, rearranged, re-URLed, and seen changes in ownership. We were concerned that links to JEP articles would no longer work. In the original JEP, we checked URLs by hand, and changed those that no longer worked (sometimes having to do some detective work to find where cited articles had moved). JEP’s current publisher, the Scholarly Publishing Office, has its own permanent URLs through the CNRI Handle System, but SPO’s implementation is not part of a larger network of publishers as the DOI System is.

Now we have registered with the DOI System so that you will always be able to find every JEP article, and know that it is the correct version. We registered our articles through CrossRef, which calls itself “the official DOI® link registration agency for scholarly and professional publications.” It was a smooth process, and one that we recommend for everyone in scholarly publishing. The DOIs now appear in the headers of articles for this issue and all back issues. For more information on how it works, see CrossRef’s explanation of the DOI service.

The difference between expectations and reality is the stuff of theory: why did we expect one thing, and why did it turn out differently? What ideas can explain this, and how can we use those ideas to understand the world? The authors we feature in this issue are also exploring how reality and theory interrelate.

Frederick Wright, Ursuline College, muses on theories of collecting: why do people collect, and what does the corporality of the collection mean to a collector? “How Can 575 Comic Books Weigh Under An Ounce?: Comic Book Collecting in the Digital Age” shows us a side of electronic publishing that we have not before explored in JEP.

Gary Hanson and Paul Haridakis, both from Kent State University, were intrigued by their students’ use of YouTube, and decided to test that usage against some communications theories. They found that YouTube users treated recreational videos and news videos differently. Their findings are elaborated in “YouTube Users Watching and Sharing the News: A Uses and Gratifications Approach.”

Oya Rieger from Cornell’s University Library writes about how current communication theory explains the acceptance of institutional repositories in “Opening Up Institutional Repositories: Social Construction of Innovation in Scholarly Communication.”

Gretchen Wagner, general counsel at ARTstor, compares theory to practice in “Finding a New Angle of Repose.” The theory in this case is copyright; the practice is the classroom. ARTstor is a digital library of nearly one million images in the areas of art, architecture, the humanities, and social sciences; those images are made available for research and educational purposes by ARTstor. This article first appeared in the EDUCAUSE Review.

Real scholars are not afraid to turn theory on themselves. William Grose and Shayla Thiel-Stern tried live blogging—writing about an event as it unfolds, and publishing it on the Internet—in their communications class at the University of Minnesota. Their analysis of what happened and why, “Live Blogging in the College Classroom: A Professor and Student Perspective,” can perhaps help other theorists come up with new and better theories.

Enjoy!