Oh wad some power the giftie gie us

To see oursels as others see us!

It wad frae monie a blunder free us,

An' foolish notion.

— Robert Burns

I can't edit my own writing. I always see what I meant to write, and not what I wrote. If I can't find someone to read over my writing, I resort to two technological fixes: I change the font (usually to something quite ugly because it distances me more from the text) or I use the function that allows the computer to read the words to me. Hearing them lets me find errors I cannot see.

If only we had similar tools that would allow us, as publishers in the electronic environment, to step away and see how others might view the flow of information, the presentation, the links that define this new medium. We can't guess how people will use these wide-open Web sites, these free-form CD-ROMs. Nor can we know how people see us in our newly expanded roles in the new environment: publishers, librarians, and authors are expected to do more, to know more, to be more.

This issue of The Journal of Electronic Publishing is a revealing look at how others see us. It was inspired by a graduate student in California who is writing a thesis on electronic journals, and featuring JEP. (We hope she will submit that excerpt for publication in JEP.) This line, from her interview with a JEP author gave us a different and rather amusing view of JEP:

". . . in his department an article in JEP equated to an article published in a reputable [print] journal."

In this issue of JEP — which we consider to be more than the equivalent of a reputable print journal — our authors are helping us to see ourselves as others see us.

  • Ivars Peterson, the online editor at Science News, writes in Beyond Hits and Page Views that the log reports from Science News' popular Web site has helped him determine how to feature articles and how to take better advantage of the electronic medium.

  • Changing the Role of Research Libraries in Scholarly Communication, by Adrian Alexander and Marilu Goodyear is the story of BioOne, a library-initiated entrepreneurial approach to publishing . BioOne's founders discovered that their leap into a non-traditional library role was welcome — a surprise to them, as they had not recognized how others viewed them.

  • Fred Friend is trying to get librarians to see how others see them. He argues in Keeping Your Head in a Revolution that librarians must become more activist because others expect it. If libraries remain locked in the past, they will miss the support that is already there, waiting for their activism.

  • Lee Jaffe's Old Wine in New Bottles: Formatting Documents with Editorial Notes is about trying to anticipate what scholars will think of his Gulliver's Travels Web site, a collection of works that help elucidate Swift's writing. In adding an essay by William Makepeace Thackeray, Jaffe faced some important questions about how scholars would see and use the site. His decision process is interesting and informative.

  • Finally, we include PubMed Central: A Good Idea, a reprint of an article I wrote for another publication while wearing my hat as a consultant to the U.S. National Institutes of Health's PubMed Central project. It looks at publishing as it might be — yet another view of our profession.

This issue of JEP tells us a bit of how others see us. Have you a different idea of how others see us? Send your thoughts to Potpourri for possible publication.


— Judith Axler Turner

Judith Axler Turner may be reached by e-mail at judith@turner.net.