Tenopir and King's (2000) Toward Electronic Journals is a good introduction to the history, the pros and cons, and the costs of both traditional and electronic academic journals. However, they underestimate the revolutionary potential of web-based publishing - especially the new functionality, accessibility and convenience it provides - and so miss both the rapidity and extent of the impending paradigm shift to electronic academic publishing.
2. Publishers were once the friends of authors. Assuming they agreed to publish one's work, authors were appreciative that publishers assumed the business burdens of journal and book production, distribution, storage, marketing and retailing. In today's web based "internet time," however, the majority of publishers, by continuing to claim ownership of copyright and the exclusive rights to publish the work, may now be perceived by many authors as imposing outdated impediments to the most rapid dissemination (and revision) of their work to the widest possible audience via the web. This is especially true of academic journal article publishing, most of which is written by scientists and scholars without the expectation of financial compensation and with the hope of the largest possible readership.
3. Tenopir and King do a fine job of reviewing the history of academic publishing, the costs of publishing (both traditional and electronic), and the increasingly conflicting interests between authors and publishers. But they seriously under estimate the depth and extent of the impending revolution of web-based academic publishing. For example, they mention only a few of the more innovative functions offered only by electronic publishing, such as the ability to attach numerical ratings by reviewers to articles and the use of online forums for readers comments and continuing feedback.
4. But it is precisely these new electronic functions, in addition to many more omitted by Tenopir and King, that will give web-based journals and books significant added value. Their pessimistic conclusion that these innovations will require a considerable amount of time, if ever, to be accepted seems curiously out of sync. Innovations can explode in an interconnected web environment. This was demonstrated recently by the SETI@Home project (setiathome.ssl.berkeley.edu). Almost overnight it created the largest virtual super-computer on the planet to search for possible radio signals from extra-terrestrial intelligent life. Similar rapid and seismic changes in academic book and journal article publishing are likely to be initiated by projects such as Eprints (www.eprints.org) and the Open Archives (www.openarchives.org).
5. Inter-linked web-based journals, archives, and books will soon offer functionality that will make the paper versions seem as antiquated as an 8-track tape deck. Some of these were anticipated a decade ago, including: (a) hypertext linking of articles and books, (b) databases of evaluative peer ratings and comments (and author responses), (c) searching by keyword, author, average evaluative ratings of reviewers (and readerships), date of publication, etc, (d) adding author revisions of articles and continuing commentary, (e) the archiving of original research data, and making it available to other researchers, (f) improving the process and fairness of peer review, (g) a substantial reduction in the amount time required for review and the time from submittal to publication, etc. (Mills, 1990). Innovations that I had not anticipated ten years ago include reader-initiated on-demand publishing services to obtain a printed copy of a book or journal article(s) for the convenience of off-line reading, and the eventual on-line availability of the entire academic corpus from any web-connect computer in the world at any time, for free.
6. But who will bear the costs of web-based academic publishing if articles and books can be accessed via the web for free? One possibility that Tenopir and King did not consider is that the costs of electronic publishing will become so low that learned societies may themselves underwrite them. Many societies already include as a membership benefit one or more printed journals and newsletters -- and web-based journals cost far less than their printed and bound ancestors. Thus, academics may themselves subsidize the costs of placing their peer reviewed research on the web via their academic society membership fees. The benefit will be free access at any time by anyone with a web-connected computer. Even without the cooperation of publishers or learned societies, Harnad (2001) has described how, today, authors may themselves self-archive their papers on the web, via Eprints (www.eprints.com).
7. Authors of books may also wish to retain their copyright and electronic rights, and offer print publishers the hardcopy rights only. If Tenopir and King had done so, they would have likely updated their website and revised their book by now.
Harnad, S. (2001). For Whom the Gate Tolls? How and Why to Free the Refereed Research Literature Online Through Author/Institution Self-Archiving, Now. http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Tp/resolution.htm
Mills, M.E. (1990). Using computers to disseminate scientific information. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, and Computers, 22 (2), p. 145 - 150.
Tenopir, C., & King, D. W. (2000). Towards electronic journals. Washington, D. C.: Special Libraries Association.
Tenopir, Carol, and Donald W. King (2000b) Precis of: "Towards Electronic Journals" PSYCOLOQUY 11(084) ftp://ftp.princeton.edu/pub/harnad/Psycoloquy/2000.volume.11/ psyc.00.11.084.electronic-journals.1.tenopir http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/cgi/psyc/newpsy?11.084