“For more than a decade, electronic journals—periodicals that are distributed over computer networks—have operated on the periphery of academe, largely spurned by authors, publishers, and readers as no match for the traditional printed journal,” the Chronicle of Higher Education wrote in 1991.[1]

Despite the Chronicle’s 1991 skepticism, authors, publishers, and readers have embraced electronic publishing. The question today, almost 17 years later, is how print—both journals and books—can continue to compete with scholarly communication over computer networks. What a reversal!

One harbinger of the reversal is that even the venerable MLA Style Manual now gives equal weight to electronic and paper citations. Kevin S. Hawkins, an electronic publishing librarian at the University of Michigan University Library, reviews the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing, 3rd edition, and identifies many of the changes—good and bad.

There is a difference between embracing an idea and making it work. Some problems have been exacerbated in the move from paper to electronic publishing. Carol Ann Meyer, who is developing a preprint production tracking system at Aries Systems, addresses the issue of citations in “Reference Accuracy: Best Practices for Making the Links.”

In a world where we rely on computers to make our links (and we all know how dumb computers are), it is even more important for publishers and authors to get them right.

Electronic publishing opens new ways of searching. At one time scholars had to wade through piles of pages to find a single fact. Today that is easily accomplished with general search engines, but new search engines with new strategies can help home in on a much smaller set of results from a much broader universe. Bruce McGregor, a publishing consultant specializing in indexing and editing, details the new world of search in “Facets and Hierarchies in Scientific Search.”

Remmel Nunn, vice president for new product development at Readex, also is interested in searching and in the potential for searchers to help one another through a form of social networking. In “Crossroads: A New Paradigm for Electronically Researching Primary Source Documents,” he explores how a new tool and a new collection might establish a new paradigm for presenting, searching, annotating, and sharing material.

The amount of information available electronically grows all the time, and in academe, electronic publishing is becoming easier and cheaper. With the right tools, any publisher can turn out a free or nearly free journal, writes Julian Fisher in “Scholarly Publishing Re-invented: Real Costs and Real Freedoms.” Fisher, a neurologist, has developed electronic publishing and decision-support tools, and offers some hard numbers to back his claims.

Joseph J. Esposito, an independent consultant focusing on digital media, looks at how the market determines publishing strategies and business models in “Open Access 2.0: Access to Scholarly Publications Moves to a New Phase.” The less a reader knows about a field, the more he needs the mediation of a publisher, and the less useful open access may be, Esposito writes.

Seventeen years ago people said “maybe” they would use computer networks for short pieces like journal articles, but books, never! In this issue two authors write about electronically publishing books.

Colin Steele, former university librarian at Australian National University, looks at open access monograph publishing arrangements between libraries and publishers in Australia, the U.S., and Europe in “Scholarly Monograph Publishing in the 21st Century: The Future More Than Ever Should Be an Open Book.”

In “Scholarly Publication at the Digital Tipping Point,” Phil Pochoda, director of the University of Michigan Press, focuses on an open-access monograph publishing arrangement between the press and the library at Michigan, a specific example of what Steele writes about more generally.

Recent conferences have covered the same topics, and we have reports from two of them.

Diane Harley reports on “The University as Publisher,” a meeting held at the University of California–Berkeley, where she directs the Higher Education in the Digital Age project at the Center for Studies in Higher Education.

Steve Paxhia, a consultant at the Gilbane Group Publishing Practice, presents “O’Reilly Media’s Tools of Change Conference 2008.” The conference addressed collaboration and social media, publishing formats for mobile devices, and business models.



1. David L. Wilson, “Testing Time for Electronic Journals,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, September 11, 1991, http://chronicle.com/che-data/articles.dir/articles-38.dir/issue-03.dir/03a02201.htm [requires account]return to text