Charles Oppenheim (2000) Time for a Timelier Analysis of Electronic Developments. Psycoloquy: 11(129) Electronic Journals (9)

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PSYCOLOQUY (ISSN 1055-0143) is sponsored by the American Psychological Association (APA).
Psycoloquy 11(129): Time for a Timelier Analysis of Electronic Developments

Book Review of Tenopir & King on Electronic-Journals

Charles Oppenheim
Dept of Information Science
Loughborough University
Leics LE11 3TU
Tel 01509-223065
Fax 01509-223053


Although Tenopir & King (2000a,b) have put enormous effort into pulling together scattered strands of research and consultancy, the book fails to give serious consideration to the more innovative ideas regarding the future of scholarly journal publishing, and too many of the results reported are out of date. Nonetheless, their book is recommended as the first comprehensive overview of the economics and the author and reader habits of scholarly journals.


copyright, citation impact, digital library, electronic archives, electronic publishing, electronic journals, peer review, publication costs, research funding
1. This 500 page paperback is a labour of love. Tenopir & King (2000a,b), two very well known U.S. information professionals, have brought together a wealth of knowledge and readings to present what aims to be the definitive work on the present and future of scholarly electronic journals. There is some emphasis on the economics of, and prices of electronic journals. The work comprises 18 chapters and is backed up by an exemplary and extensive bibliography, an author index, and a somewhat disappointing subject index. There is a list of Tables, but annoyingly no list of Figures.

2. The book is very confusingly structured, hopping backwards and forwards across topics without any logical coherence. For example, many results are presented before the methods used to reach them are described. Surprisingly for such a magnum opus, there is no summing up at the end. The book is heavily U.S.-biased and so, for example, fails to consider the results of the electronic journal experiments sponsored by the eLib programme <> in any detail. It is also, perhaps surprisingly, very conservative in its approach, accepting at face value many of the arguments of publishers for why scholarly journals are so highly priced and why electronic journals offer few savings, and failing to consider innovative business models such as those based upon advertising or sponsorship.

3. The book has the look and feel of a major literature survey. Although Tenopir and King do intersperse the review with relevant and helpful (and sometimes amusingly wry and honest) comments of their own, there is a surprising over dependence upon studies that are now quite seriously dated. For example, Tables 28-30 could have easily been updated with more recent data that are readily available. This failure to bring old data up to date indicates an over-reliance on older studies written by the authors that have simply been incorporated into the text.

4. Despite the extensive bibliography, at times the authors make assertions (for example, in Chapter 1, "the number of interlibrary loans is over 40 million") without offering a supporting reference or stating whether this is world-wide (as is implied), or U.S.A. only.

5. The book is clearly typeset with no major typographical errors and only two factual errors that I found (Reproduction Rights Organisations do not "grant" copyright, but issue licences; Reed Elsevier is not a "joint venture" between Reed and Elsevier, but an international company in its own right). There were some surprising omissions, such as Goffmann's epidemic theory for literature growth and a failure to consider the impact of electronic journals on secondary services (see Meadows 1974). The discussion on archiving and preservation is very sketchy, and the discussion on subject gateways fails to consider the UK's much admired Resource Discovery Network <>. The authors sometimes make statements that are controversial, to put it mildly. The suggestion that corporations would not accept pricing based on maximum numbers of concurrent users flies in the face of the fact that most leading financial institutions accept this type of pricing for real time financial information. The claim that most end users would prefer to use an intermediary rather than search the Web themselves beggars belief.

6. Do not get the impression from these criticisms that this is a poor book. Quite the reverse. The authors have done a masterly job in assembling a vast and disparate amount of evidence and have shed considerable light and rigour on the economics of electronic journals, adding to this their informed commentary. The book can be strongly recommended to publishers seeking guidance on costings and on pricing strategies, and to librarians wishing to delve further into the debate on scholarly journals, their pricing and their future. It is also of interest to students in information studies and publishing, with the sections on patterns of authorship and reading bringing together much disparate research into a single convenient place. However, the flaws, especially a failure to probe harder into publishers' assertions regarding the reason for high prices and the failure to consider many aspects of electronic journals other than the economics (for example Harnad's novel ideas: Okerson & O'Donnell 1995), means that this is not the final word on electronic journals.


Okerson, Ann & James O'Donnell (1995) (Eds.) Scholarly Journals at the Crossroads; A Subversive Proposal for Electronic Publishing. Washington, DC., Association of Research Libraries.

Meadows, A.J. (1974) Communication in Science. Butterworths, p. 208

Tenopir, Carol, and Donald W. King (2000a) Towards Electronic Journals: Realities for Scientists, Librarians, and Publishers. Washington, D.C.: Special Libraries Association.

Tenopir, Carol, and Donald W. King (2000b) Precis of: "Towards Electronic Journals" PSYCOLOQUY 11(084) psyc.00.11.084.electronic-journals.1.tenopir

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