Scholarly Journals at the Crossroads: A Subversive Proposal for Electronic Publishing

Article excerpt

This book offers a new approach to keeping current with academic trends. Rather than a scholarly work or a compilation of papers from various sources, Scholarly Journals at the Crossroads is a printed record of an Internet discussion between members of the scientific and academic community. Their topic reflects the growing impact of technology on academia: the electronic future of scholarly and scientific journals.

The discussion begins when Stevan Harnad, then professor of psychology at the University of Southampton (U.K.), presents a "subversive proposal" for eliminating paper journals by replacing them with electronic versions. What follows are comments, projections, disagreements, and clarifications from a variety of scientists, scholars, and librarians. As stated in the introduction, editors Okerson and O'Donnell elected to present the book in the form of printed e-mail messages because the true value of the topic lies in the give-and-take of the participants. Indeed, there is no neatly packaged conclusion at the end of the book, because only time and further e-mail will see the conclusion of the question that was raised: how scholarly journals can best migrate to electronic publishing.

While the messages appear chronologically, the editors have broken them into chapters, loosely categorized around the current thread of the discussion. Okerson and O'Donnell have done a fine job of maintaining the flavor of Internet communication while deleting personal references and comments by the writers. Quotations from previous messages are included when a writer wishes to respond to a specific point in question. In electronic communication, this practice is necessary to keep the issues fresh in the mind of the recipient. These quotations are included in the book, even though ail of the referenced messages are recorded as well. While it seems redundant at first, discussions of a comment may continue for weeks and the quotes become a convenient replacement of the age-old practice of flipping back and forth to keep up with the train of thought. …