The Promise of Electronic Publishing: OCLC's Program

By Dykhuis, Randy | Computers in Libraries, November-December 1994 | Go to article overview

The Promise of Electronic Publishing: OCLC's Program


Dykhuis, Randy, Computers in Libraries


Electronic journals have long tantalized publishers with functionality radically different from today's print. Journals online offer instant availability, quick feedback, and additional readers. E-journals are hot and tracking their introduction is a challenge, let alone maintaining any kind of bibliographic control.

On the Net, you can find a diverse assortment of them, some following traditional peer-reviewed models, others boldly experimenting with new ways of delivering research to scholars. And with the Electronic Journals Online (EJO) program, OCLC offers a tidy, peer-reviewed vision of electronic publishing.

In January 1995, OCLC will bring up four new journals including: Immunology Today, the flagship journal in Elsevier Trends Journal series; Current Opinion in Biology; Current Opinion in Medicine; and Applied Physics Letters Online. This offering more than doubles the number of electronic journals OCLC. The current stable includes The Online Journal of Current Clinical Trials, The Online Journal of Knowledge Synthesis in Nursing, and Electronic Letters Online.

In addition to the new titles, OCLC has just released the latest upgrade to its telecommunications and browsing software, Guidon (pronounced guy-don). Guidon version 3.0 was sent to subscribers in November. With several key enhancements, Guidon 3.0 is a big step forward in OCLC's strategy for its reference services division.

OCLC's Electronic Journals

OCLC's Electronic Journals Online program pushes the envelope of peer-reviewed publishing and brings into the electronic age a form of scholarly publishing that has become the standard for judging promotion and tenure in university settings. With the introduction of The Online Journal of Current Clinical Trials in July 1992, OCLC and the American Association for the Advancement of Science became the first to publish a scholarly, peer-reviewed journal in the electronic environment.

OCLC assumes many of the duties normally assigned to the printer, while its partners exercise editorial and marketing control. The model has worked to OCLC's advantage: the company is free to focus on the technological challenges of delivering a high quality product to subscribers.

Some of the journals that OCLC is publishing, Current Clinical Trials and The Online Journal of Knowledge Synthesis in Nursing, for example, have no print equivalent. With these journals, the editors send articles, complete with graphs, charts, and equations, marked up in Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML) to OCLC as soon as they have passed the peer-review process. Within twenty-four hours, the articles are online.

In traditional print publications, the time-lag for getting articles into hands of subscribers can run into months. "Electronic publishing's greatest strength," says Andrea Keyhani, manager of electronic publishing at OCLC, "lies in its timeliness and ability to get articles to subscribers very quickly."

The Clinical Trials Example

OCLC has targeted specialties that are best suited for quick delivery and serve readers by timely access to research.

Clinical trials certainly fit Keyhani's definition of information that is best offered as quickly as possible. With The Online Journal of Current Clinical Trials, the first publication under the Electronic Journals Online banner, OCLC gave subscribers quicker, more efficient access to information.

For its efforts, OCLC was rewarded with a publication that has done very well. "For a first time journal, Current Clinical Trials surpassed our expectations," Keyhani notes. The journal received another boost when the National Library of Medicine recently began indexing it in the MEDLINE database.

However, the journal's success was not enough to keep the original publisher, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, from announcing early in 1994 its intent to sell editorial control of the journal. …

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