Introduction: E-Publishing: A Rapidly Maturing Industry

Library Technology Reports, November-December 2004 | Go to article overview

Introduction: E-Publishing: A Rapidly Maturing Industry


Electronic publishing has had an unprecedented impact on what is available for libraries to acquire and on purchasing practices. Unfortunately, as the number of useful digital products and users' desire for them escalate, many libraries also are facing unusually severe financial constraints.

Publicly funded libraries have had drastic funding cuts because of state budget problems. Private academic institutions also have suffered because of reduced return on endowment investments.

Moreover, many in the higher education community believe that declining budgets are not simply the natural consequence of cyclical forces but instead represent a fundamentally changed outlook that will continue for some time. (1)

These analysts argue that cuts in university funding occur because education is no longer regarded as a public good to be supported automatically and unconditionally. If this idea is truly the case, academic libraries at state institutions will be able to afford only a fraction of the growing array of electronic resources being brought to market.

Even richly endowed libraries may be challenged, since costs show no sign of significant decline and attractive products continue to appear in rapid succession.

Chapter 1 describes current growth areas in e-publishing and the increasingly rich offerings available to libraries. The focus throughout this report is on nonserial products, with reference to serials only in so far as they affect overall budgets and financial management strategies.

Chapter 2 briefly discusses rising costs and the raised expectations of users.

Chapter 3 describes strategies libraries are using to balance increasing demands and available resources.

Chapter 4 details the impact of e-publishing on day-to-day acquisition processes.

Chapter 5, "Alternative Acquisition Routes," describes methods for adding to collections besides purchasing. It discusses the impact electronic publishing has had, in particular, on interlibrary loan--the traditional substitute for ownership.

Chapter 6 describes how e-publishing is changing libraries.

Progress in e-publishing

Beginning in the mid-1990s, a handful of publishers started to explore the possibilities of delivering information to libraries and their users via the Internet.

Among the earliest offerings were indexing and abstracting services that had previously been distributed in CD ROM format, primary source texts from Chadwyck-Healey, and Academic Press journals, the first major bundled collection of electronic and print versions of serials.

In the last 10 years, librarians have come a long way from where isolated, fledging e-publishers experimented in isolation with emerging technologies. Today libraries interact with a robust electronic publishing industry capable of offering highly advanced and reliable products in an increasingly global marketplace.

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