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No. WP- 01-04


Electronic Journals, the Internet, and Scholarly Communication

Rob Kling & Ewa Callahan,
Indiana University – Bloomington
Bloomington, IN 47405

For: Annual Review of Information Science and Technology (ARIST), –(volume 37) Blaise Cronin and Debora Shaw (Eds.)

4/11/02  (Draft 6.03  RK EJ)  17,400  words  CSI- WP01-04
Note: This draft is in process; do not quote directly without checking with the authors.


We are currently in a period of substantial debate about the character of scholarly publishing systems. Some of the issues -- such as the costs of journals, speed of publication, and the fairness of blind refereed reviewing practices -- predate public access to the Internet.

There has been an economic crisis in scholarly publishing since the late 1980’s due to the costs of scientific journals rising much faster than both inflation and the growth of library budgets (Miller, 2000; Kirkpatrick, 2001; Tenopir & King, 2000g: 274-300). During the 1990s, some academic research libraries have unsubscribed to numerous journals, sometimes numbering in the thousands – across many disciplines. Many scholars suspected that the costs of publishing electronic journals would be substantially lower than the costs of publishing paper journals. Further, some have argued that electronic publishing would enable not-for-profit organizations, such as universities, to assume the responsibilities of publishing a substantial fraction of the corpus of scholarly journals at relatively lower costs than “for profit” (trade) publishers.

There have also been concerns about the integrity of peer review processes in traditional scholarly publishing1 . Some analysts hope that new electronic journals (e-journals) would enable review processes to be fairer or clearer. In addition, other analysts see electronic publishing as offering opportunities for more rapid communication, broader access to scholarly literature, new documentary forms (hypertext), and richer modes of scholarly communication (e.g., the addition of extensive appendices of data, executable algorithms, photographs, audio/video clips). These debates are fueled by a combination of problems with some aspects of the existing publication regimes and the beliefs (by some) that various forms of electronic communication may significantly resolve these problems.

Many working scholars in a wide variety of fields, as well as some librarians and others concerned with scholarly publishing, have articulated potential solutions to these problems (and others) in which electronic publishing (and easy access to the Internet and the World Wide Web (WWW) is now a central element. It is worth keeping in mind that less than 15 years ago, the leading experiments with e-journals used other media (such as CDs) and interfaces (e.g., X-Windows for Unix) that were much less commonplace than today's WWW browsers.  To address these issues, the scholarly communities have undertaken numerous and varied efforts to use the Internet to improve the communication of research articles through the use of e-journals in a variety of formats.

Scholarly communication can take place via a number of documentary genres (as well as conversational genres) including letters, memos, conference papers technical reports, dissertations, primary articles, review essays, monographs, and edited books. However, the primary scholarly literature is composed of articles (usually published journals or disseminated at conferences) and books. The vast majority of practical projects to use the Internet in enhancing the communication of this primary research literature have focused on articles. In addition, most of the research about scholars’ behavior with electronic media has also emphasized articles, especially those packaged as per-reviewed e-journals.

In this chapter we will examine the role of the Internet in supporting documentary communication via e-journals. While this topic may appear rather banal, it has been the subject of substantial controversy among scholars, librarians, publishers, and research sponsors. At the extremes, some analysts have argued that scholars should "free the literature" for broad access by publishing their articles on their own web sites and make them available without charge to readers (Harnad, 1995), while others have argued for electronic extensions of publisher-controlled versions of peer-reviewed journals that are sold by subscription to readers. Between these extreme positions have been many proposals and a few empirical studies of scholarly communication via e-journals.

Peer-review seems to be one pivotal criterion that many scientists employ in evaluating the legitimacy of publication venues (Kling & Covi, 1995e; Weller, 2001). While we carefully examine the behavior of authors, readers and other stakeholders regarding  (peer-reviewed) scholarly e-journals, a companion publication (Kling, forthcoming) examines the electronic distribution of articles that have not been peer reviewed, such as self-published manuscripts, or articles in working paper series and technical report series.

This chapter will emphasize the contributions of the social and socio-technical research literatures. However, other types of publications will be included as well because they provide important context for the research questions and research studies. We will discuss the opportunities and challenges e-journal publication strategies and examine how they are shaped by socio-technical relationships. Our time and expertise have limited our ability to examine some important economic and legal issues such as the pricing of e-journals and shifts in intellectual property regimes. Most of the reviewed studies concentrate on North- American approaches.

We identified relevant research literature for this chapter by starting with the studies on scholarly electronic publishing that we knew from our earlier research. We also conducted searches in bibliographies such as the Scholarly Electronic Publishing Bibliography compiled by Bailey  (http://info.lib.uh.edu/sepb/sepb.html), Collection Management and Scholarly Electronic Publishing Resource by C.J. Armstrong (http://www.i-a-l.co.uk/CM_SEP1.htm ), Electronic Journals: A Selected Guide posted on-line by ‘Harrassowitz’ (http://www.harrassowitz.de/top_resources/ejresguide.html) We also examined the bibliographies of monographs such as Toward Electronic Journals by Tenopir and King (2000), and Communicating Research (1998) by Meadows. Other sources were brought to our attention by our colleagues and reviewers of this chapter.

Several previous ARIST chapters examined different aspects of scholarly electronic communication. Peek and Pomerantz (1998) reviewed the history of e-journals, and compared various models, scenarios, experiments and projects. They also discussed acceptance of e-journals in scholarly communities.  However, they focused primarily upon the architecture of specific publishing formats and venues. In contrast, we will emphasize what we can learn from systematic empirical research about scholars’ behavior with the distribution of e-journals, especially via Internet forums.

Dalton (1995) examined early discussions of peer review in electronic publishing. King and Tenopir (1999) reviewed studies of scholars' reading, use, and perception of journals. They emphasized paper journals and a historical comparison of empirical studies conducted from the 1970s through the 1990s.  Their chapter briefly examines the use and legitimacy of e-journals. In the most recent ARIST chapter on this topic, Borgman and Furner (2002) examined authors’ citing and linking practices in electronic publications.

Our chapter will concentrate on empirical behavioral studies about the role of e-journals in supporting scholarly communication. Some readers may wonder whether such a chapter is timely, given the recent ARIST chapters that examine scholarly electronic publishing. In fact, Borgman (2000:84-84) writing in 1998-1999 notes that the “debates about electronic publishing involve the interaction of technological, psychological, sociological, economic, political and cultural factors that influence how people create, use, seek and acquire information.” She believed that the debates between those analysts who were advancing different scenarios rested on so many complex evaluations, that “only time will tell whose assumptions and choices of supporting data are most accurate.” We are writing in 2002 and believe that some of the socio-technical reconfigurations of research journals that have taken place since the advent of some e-journals in the early 1990s are now sufficiently clear, that some widely held assumptions are no longer supportable. We believe that our review of a key set of empirical research studies can now help us refine our ways of conceptualizing the roles of e-journals and the Internet in scholarly communication.

Before we examine the behavior of readers, authors and others with e-journals, we want to clarify some key conceptual issues, including the authors and audiences for key literatures about these topics, the relationships between publishing and communication and different kinds of e-journals.


Scholarly Electronic Communication refers to the distribution of scholarly articles, papers, and messages by electronic means as opposed to their distribution by paper media. The vast literature on this subject ranges from research studies to popular writing. In existing bibliographies, research papers, professional articles and popular works are indiscriminately mixed. Further, only a small fraction of the articles report behavioral research about e-journals.  In the 41st edition of the most comprehensive and up-to-date bibliography about scholarly electronic publishing, compiled by Charles W. Bailey (2002), identifies only 71 articles (section 3.6) of over 1200 are classified explicitly as “research” about electronic serials. We believe that it is helpful to segment the literature about Scholarly Electronic Communication into groups that are based upon their authors and likely audiences:

1. Social and socio-technical research literature, which includes journals such as JASIS&T, research monographs (e.g., Tenopir and King, 2000), and specialized research conferences.

2. Technological research literature, which includes analytical examinations of technological standards and design strategies. It is co-extensive with the technological research literature about digital libraries. It includes a Developer literature, which provides technical details of the structure of various electronic forums.

3. Practitioner literature (professional writing), whose primary audiences include publishers, librarians, academic administrators, and faculty who may publish in e-media, organize electronic collections, or evaluate such electronic publications. It includes an Enthusiast literature that advocates and/or predicts an inevitable switch to electronic publishing as the most efficient means of scholarly communication.  It also includes a Literature of possibilities, that is less partisan than the enthusiast literature, and which acknowledges both the advantages and difficulties associated with electronic publishing.

4. Popular accounts of Scholarly Electronic Communication Forums written for the public (in newspapers).

5. Marketing descriptions of Scholarly Electronic Communication Forums provided by their organizers to prospective authors.

In this chapter, we will emphasize the social and socio-technical research literature; but we will draw upon other accounts for contextual information.
Scholars have many kinds of forums and media for communication about their research. They can participate in face to face seminars and meet at conferences. They can use paper mail to send articles to their colleagues. They can publish their articles in journals, books, and conference proceedings. The mix of these forums and their relative importance varies from field to field. For example, peer-reviewed conference proceedings are much more important in computer science than in information science. Journals tend to be more important as a medium for communicating original research in the natural sciences than in the humanities. In some fields, such as economics, every major research institute seems to have a working paper series, while research institutes that study humanities topics rarely organize such series.

The use of electronic media expands these traditional kinds of opportunities. Scholars can send e-mail or post their manuscripts to scholarly LISTSERVs and mailing lists asking for comments and suggestions, post their manuscripts in an online series of research manuscripts, publish in (electronic) journals, or publish monographic works, some of which may appear in online collections and repositories.  The academic community also produces many supporting materials such as conference announcements, WWW sites, and bibliographies that facilitate scholarly communication.

The roles and opportunities presented by the various electronic forums are discussed often in the scholarly literatures, professional writing, specialized on-line forums, and in news stories for academics (as in the Chronicle of Higher Education). But there is little systematic empirically grounded research about the development and use of most of these communication forums. Scholar's behavior with scholarly e-journals has attracted the substantial attention of empirically-oriented social and behavioral researchers. Our own work on this review chapter was expedited by our access to the electronic versions of articles from many different kinds of publishing venues, including authors’ own online archives, the WWW sites of e-journals, and the electronic versions of paper journals through collections that are site licensed to Indiana University. Before we discuss research about these topics in detail, we must clarify the concept of an e-journal.


 Most discussions of e-journals conflate a number of different formats into one overarching, and sometimes misleading, category -- electronic journals (e-journals). Much of the enthusiasm for e-journals in the early 1990s was based on specific assumptions: they would be electronic only, they could be peer reviewed, and there would be no charges to their authors and readers. Similarly, concerns about the long term archiving of e-journals and their academic legitimacy hinged on similar assumptions (Kling & Covi, 1995).  Today, the major scientific, technical, and medical (STM) publishers who offer electronic versions of their paper journals rely upon a subscription model in which they allow electronic access to individual subscribers or to members of organizations who purchase more expensive institutional (library) subscriptions.

For example, Okerson (2000) reviewed the history of journals and discusses a few electronic journals of the early 1990s. She also provided a timeline from 1991 to 1999 and indicated the number of electronic journal titles that were listed in two directories. The number of titles grew from 27 in 1991, through 3634 in 1997 and then to 8000 titles in 1999. She briefly discussed the move by major STM publishers to provide WWW-based access to their journals in the period of 1996-2000. Unfortunately, Okerson does not carefully distinguish between the relatively few journals that were published only in electronic editions in 1999 from the majority that were published in parallel paper and electronic editions. As we shall show in this chapter, these distinctions have substantial consequences.

The questions about the early "pure" e-journals take on a different character for journals with an established reputation and readership as a paper-based journal that also provides a parallel electronic edition. The distinction between an e-journal without any paper version and a paper journal with an electronic version matter in trying to answer questions about such issues as the legitimacy of e-journals or their costs. For example, we know of no evidence that prestigious paper journals, such as Science, have lost legitimacy after they established online versions in addition to their printed copies. The question of legitimacy seems to affect only the journals that are completely or primarily distributed in electronic form. Similarly, questions of costs will hinge on the number of printed copies a journal produces as well as the character of its electronic form.  Last, questions about a journal's accessibility and readership can also hinge on the extent to which it allows readers free access to electronic versions.

Following Kling and McKim (1997) we find it useful to distinguish at least four kinds of e-journals:

Pure e-journals – journals whose text is originally distributed only in digital form. Examples include the Electronic Journal of Communication, the Journal of Digital Information, the Internet Journal of Archaeology, and the Journal of Electronic Publishing.

E-p-journals – journals is primarily distributed electronically, but may have very limited distribution in paper form.  Examples include the Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research and the Electronic Transactions on Artificial Intelligence.

P-e-journals – journals that are primarily distributed in paper form, but which are also distributed in electronic form. Examples include Science, Physical Review, and thousands of other scientific journals.

P+e-journals  -- that are initiated with parallel paper and electronic editions that may be widely distributed. The American Chemical Society's Organic Letters is an example.

There are many published discussions of the possible benefits of pure e-journals and their advantages over traditional "pure paper" journals (p-journals). However, those discussions often ignore three ideas: First, although beneficial changes may be possible from a technical perspective, the social structure of online publishing does not change as rapidly as the technical structure. Second, possible changes are often discussed without distinguishing which type of e-journal they apply to. Third, possible advantages are often analyzed separately, without taking into account how one advantage may tradeoff with another (for example, an e-journal's cost versus the variety of features offered).


The literatures about scholarly electronic publishing are primarily informed by two conceptual models. One model, which Kling, McKim and King (2001) refer to as the "Standard Model," emphasizes the conventional information processing properties of different media, such as paper and digital. An alternative kind of model, a Socio-technical Network Model (Kling et al., 2001), characterizes the complex interplay between the information processing features of artifacts (such as e-journals) and social behavior at many levels of analysis, including its operations/production2 .

According to the Standard Model, an e-journal has distinctive information properties when compared with a p-journal: its articles can be more rapidly reviewed, it can be more speedily distributed, it is much easier to update or be kept timely, it is not limited by a costly page count, it can be more easily searched, it can include articles that are much richer in their representations (e.g., more pictures and sound recordings), it should be much less expensive for readers, and it should be more readily available to a wider readership (for example Amiran, Orr, & Unsworth, 1991).  Some analysts also identify systematic disadvantages of electronic media, such as perishability and the ease of plagiarism (Wells, 1999).

Kling, McKim and King (2001) characterize a Socio-technical Network Model that represents media in use as collections of social groups and artifacts that are brought together in intricate and interpenetrating social and technological relationships.  The Socio-technical Network Models treat electronic media "in use" as a socio-technical network that brings together participants with different roles, rights, responsibilities, resources flows, legitimacies, and taboo behaviors. In these models, differently structured electronic forums inscribe some of these relationships and behaviors into parts of the medium. In this model, a peer reviewed e-journal is not just a set of documents on-line. If subscription is limited, unauthorized readers can be excluded by methods such as requiring passwords or access from specific Internet domains. Different parts of the electronic spaces that represent the journal may be structured in different ways. For example, articles are normally write-protected in ways that prevent readers from arbitrarily editing their texts. Other parts of the journal’s electronic space may be structured so that editors may privately comment about articles that are under review and allow readers to comment on articles that have been accepted for publication. This example illustrates how different sets of "roles, rights, and responsibilities" could be inscribed in software, hardware and data files.

The Socio-technical Network Models do not just characterize the internal structures and relationships of an electronic forum, but also their relationships with other groups, technologies, and other forums.  For example, a specific e-journal may gain a level of legitimacy from the status of the organization that publishes it, from its editorial board, and from the quality of articles that they have recently published. Authors and readers of a specific e-journal may also try to publish in or read other competing journals. They also rely upon the bibliographic and search systems that they use to locate journal articles. (Journals are added to certain bibliographic systems, such as the Social Science Citation Index or Sociological Abstracts, based on professional choices by its publisher.)
The Socio-technical Network Models are ecological in that they locate a specific forum in relationship to an extended network of participants, alternative resources, locations and competing activities . Later in this chapter we will examine scholarly journals in terms of Socio-technical Network Models, in comparison with their Standard Models, and analyze how they change our understanding of the processes of scholarly communication.

Table #1 summarizes some key aspects of the Standard Model of e-journals and Socio-technical Network Models of e-journals. It is important to note that these models refer to ontologies ie., the kinds of objects, relationships, and processes that should be included in characterizing some  part of the world – in our case, e-journals. These models have to be coupled with some additional theories of  social behavior in order to develop various explanations, scenarios and predictions about topics such as the future role of e-journals in scholarly communication.

Table 1. Models of E-Journals

Standard Model of an E-journal
Socio-Technical (ST)Network Model of an E-Journal
Analytical Focus
E-Forum & Users' Interaction Ecological: E-Forum, Participation, Participants' Interactions in the E-Forums & with other ST-networks & settings
Individual participants + diverse groups & organizations that influence behavior in the E-Forum
Conceptions of Actors
Interactors (participating in multiple overlapping social & Socio-Technical Networks & perhaps in different social settings
Treatment of IT
Cheap & easy & 
Configurational – socially & by tech inscription 
IT Infrastructure
Taken for granted (TFG) Variable, sometimes can be problematic
Social Behavior
Can be easily reformed to take advantage of new conveniences, efficiencies and values.  Influenced strongly by interactions outside the E-Forums as well as within + E-Forum resources relative to other opportunities elsewhere
Resource Flows &
Business Models
Examined (includes $ flows, regulatory regimes)
Journal's legitimacy treated as an accomplishment



Henry Oldenburg produced the first issue of a scientific journal, the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, in 1665 (Schaffner, 1994). In 2001, Ulrich's International Periodicals Directory listed over 160,000 periodicals and serials published in the United States and throughout the world. However, this list includes the proceedings of annual conferences and annual reviews, as well as journals. Nonetheless, the number of scientific journals and abstract journals published worldwide is usually estimated to be over 100,000 and the number of journals has grown steadily and rapidly during the second half of the 20th century (Tenopir & King, 2000:58). On the other hand, information scientists, such as Eugene Garfield, who have used citation data to examine the likely use and impact of journals, have found that only a small fraction of the journals in any field are widely cited, and that the majority of journals are rarely cited, if at all.

The journal’s form developed over several centuries. For example, abstracts of articles became widespread only in the mid-20th century. Some analysts argue that innovations in scientific publishing will depend on the development of e-journals. However, there certainly have been some innovations that have not required the development of pure e-journals or e-p journals. These include article abstracting and indexing databases, the translation of the Science Citation Index and Social Sciences Citation Index to an electronic form, and journal notification services (via e-mail). It is also arguable that electronic manuscript collections may in the future play a greater role in scholarly communication than would the p-e journals.

Much of the debate on the future of electronic publishing concentrates on opportunities for readers, writers and publishers. The accessibility of scholarly e-journals, their potentially lower production costs, the possibility of multimedia publications and reference linking are treated as compelling features of the medium that will enable them to thrive.

A. Relative Advantages E-journals and P-journals

Many visible enthusiasts for e-journals, such as Okerson (1991; 2000) and Odlyzko (1995; 2002)  rely upon a Standard Model of e-journals and   portray the transition of journals from paper to electronic media as a relatively easy process. The Internet is seen as a medium that will be able to solve many of the difficulties associated with traditional publishing. Analysts who rely upon the Standard Model regarding scholarly communication, often do not take into account the variety of social changes that need to be considered in this process and that they operate on different sets of institutionalized norms than do changes in Information Technology infrastructures and applications. Socio-technical change can be a challenge, but it is essential to the success of the transition of scholarly communication.  Tenopir and King (2000) have carefully studied scientists’ journal use and journal costs since the late 1970s. They advanced a rich socio-technical model of journal publishing (Tenopir & King, 2000:83-104)  and argued that shifts to a scientific communication constellation based on pure e-journals will be uneven and relatively slow.

The issues involved in publishing scholarly e-journals have been summarized by Buckley, Burright, Prendergast, Sapon-White, and Taylor (1999), Wells (1999) and Tenopir and King (2000) among others. Buckley et. al. briefly examine six major issues from the point of view of librarians: access, cataloging and indexing, pricing, archiving, and licensing. Wells lists a set of eight potential advantages and six potential disadvantages of e-journals and provides citations for specific claims about them. In the next sections we will analyze the most commonly discussed issues from the perspectives of the Standard and Socio-technical Models of e-journals.

        1. Publication speed

There is a common belief that switching from paper to electronic distribution will improve the speed of publication. This would be especially beneficial in fields where the publication process takes years rather than a few months. According to Walsh and Bayma (1996), the median publication lags for some top biology and physics journals was six months in 1990. In contrast, a top chemistry journal took 8 months and a top mathematics journal took 19 months. However, the variations for each journal ranged from 3-4 months in each case for the most rapid publication. However, the mathematics journal took as long as 42 months to publish some articles.

After an author submits a manuscript, it goes through a peer review process, that could be comparably long for p-journals and e-journals. Some (e.g. Harnad, 1996; Nadasdy, 1997) advocated alternative forms of review, but we have not found systematic studies that show how much those forms actually improve the speed or quality of publication.  We will analyze manuscript review processes later in this chapter.

An accepted manuscript goes through an electronic type setting process. This process can take longer for p-e journals since each version has to be formatted separately. The time needed for type setting pure e-journals depends upon the complexity of the text formatting; an ASCII file can be formatted quickly while SGML coding requires much more work.  This process also varies from discipline to discipline: those in which articles are rather text oriented such as many humanities disciplines require less time than in those disciplines were articles are contain graphs or color photography, such as some natural sciences.

Other reason for publication delay of printed journals is so called “backlog effect”. Paper journals are budgeted to publish a certain number of pages per year. If the manuscripts accepted for publication in a given year exceed this number, they will be published in the next year, thus extending the queue of the articles to be published. E-journals need not experience this type of delay.

An accepted manuscript can rapidly be posted on an e-journals' WWW site (after typesetting). Thus an e-journal could significantly decrease its publication time, if the publisher decides to post each article separately. The actual practices of posting on the WWW varies from journal to journal. For example, the Astrophysical Journal posts the titles, authors, and texts of articles soon after they are accepted for publication. The American Chemical Society also posts individual electronic manuscripts on their journal WWW site soon after they are accepted for publication, a format that ACS calls “As Soon As Publishable (ASAP).” Practice like ASAP can lead to electronic access being 11 weeks’ faster than the print publication (Wilkinson, 1998). The p-e journals published by European publishers and scientific societies tend to distribute both paper and electronic versions almost simultaneously. In contrast, articles available at the PubMedCentral service sponsored by the U.S. National Institutes of Health may appear two months after their initial print publication4 .

The publishers of pure e-journals can post their accepted electronic manuscripts on their WWW site soon after they are delivered to their editor, especially since many of them request that the author properly format their articles. But editors may wait until they receive more electronic manuscripts to bundle them together as an issue, and thus some potential publishing speed is lost. (For example, the pure e-journal, the Journal of Computer Mediated Communication, publishes quarterly issues, while the pure e-journal, the Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research, publishes individual articles soon after they are accepted for publication.)

The claim that electronic publishing substantially decreases publication time is based on the Standard Model of electronic publishing, with the belief that it is possible to publish an article immediately after it is accepted. However, if we analyze the publishing process from the perspective of the Socio-Technical Network Model, we can observe that the process is influenced by practices that are media-independent forces such as editorial review times, author revision times, and the strategy and timing of posting articles individually or as a package.

        2. Cost of producing e-journals

Variations in the design and maintenance of e-journals can cause their production costs to differ from one to another.  Harnad (1995) claims that electronic publishing may be 70%-90% less costly than paper, since pure electronic publishing only has the costs incurred by the peer review process and copy editing.  However, the cost of an e-journal may depend on the type of document coding used. Formatting manuscripts in ASCII or HTML is relatively inexpensive, while SGML tagging can be the most expensive (Holoviak & Seitter, 1997). Many e-journals distribute their articles in multiple formats to ensure that more potential readers have access to a format that their computers can support or that they prefer.  Some costs may be shifted from editors to authors by requesting them to provide their articles in specific formats, such as Tex or Adobe PDF.

The inclusion of additional features such as multimedia presentations or lengthy data sets can readily increase an e-journal’s cost. Whisler and Rosenblatt (1997) estimate that electronic versions of a journal may be about 20% less costly because of lower distribution costs, but that those savings will be overridden by the costs of new features.  For p-e journals and e-p journals, the costs will be even greater as some costs of printed and electronic versions must be added, even if one version is based on the other.

The administrative costs of e-journals may depend on whether they are free to all readers or available only by subscription. One of largest costs (for fee based e-journals) is the cost of installing and maintaining authentication software and subscriber data. The subscribers to printed journals are responsible for storing and archiving their own journal issues, while the e-journal publishers assumes responsibility for organizing, storing and maintaining electronic archives.

Estimating the costs of the technology needed to create and maintain an e-journal in future decades can be difficult because price and price-performance improvements don’t translate linearly into lower cost improvements. For example, a PC today may perform over 300 times faster than the first IBM PC/XT’s. But it costs much more than 1/300 the price of the original PC/XT because there are minimum costs for keyboards, monitors, packaging, marketing, software and sales (Crawford, 1998).

Bot, Burgermeester, and Roes (2000) calculated the costs of the pure e-journal Electronic Journal of Comparative Law (EJCL) and compared it to their cost estimates of printed law journals. They based their cost estimates on each journal’s subscription price minus a hypothetical 30 percent profit margin. They concluded that the cost of the e-journal was considerably less than the cost of producing p-journals. But because their findings are based on estimates, it is difficult to compare their data with other e-journal cost studies.

Different conclusions were reached by Fisher (1997), who calculated the cost of the MIT Press publishing Chicago Journal of Theoretical Computer Science (CJTCS), as a pure e-journal. She compared these costs with those of publishing the print journal Neural Computation (NC). Fisher reports that the production costs were considerably lower for the e-journal (with a difference of 291%). However, the overhead costs were 1240% higher for CJTCS. The overhead costs  (per article) consisted of staff labor costs and the costs of hardware and software. The journals’ relative overhead costs (per article) were strongly influenced by the much smaller number of articles published in CJTCS. While reaching different conclusions, the authors of these two different cost analyses agree that estimating the costs of pure e-journals is difficult at this time. Fisher bases her judgements on the  relative costs per article, while Bot, Burgermeester, and Roes base their judgements on the size of readership and subscriptions. Both the submission rates and subscription rates for pure e-journals have often been rather low in the 1990s.

Cost analyses that are based upon the Standard Model assume that printed and online journals have the same features. A direct comparison based on those features suggests that e-journals are considerably less expensive because of the reductions in printing and mailing costs (Okerson, 1991). But maintaining an e-journal may require the use of other features, such as subscriber authentication software, which increases production costs. The addition of features such as internal links to other e-journal articles, multimedia and various kinds of subscriber notification services5  can add substantial value while increasing costs as well.

Thus the cost of producing a journal is not based only on "a basic production and marketing cost", but also upon the set of features the publisher’s chooses to include. The inclusion of additional features and the choice of coding types will probably be based on a compromise between readers’ preferences and the available resources. The marketing of the journal may also be conducted through various means, such as mailing journal announcements to prospective readers, offering free access to the site for a limited time, or providing one free online issue. Each of these options carries a different cost. Thus, the cost-consuming activities of an e-journal’s production and promotion are not eliminated; rather they are reconfigured (Fisher, 1997).

        3. Pricing of e-journals

The price of journals is closely related to their production costs. However, some of the criticisms of the pricing of expensive scientific journals emphasize the ways that some commercial publishers seem to add substantial profit to their journals' cost when they set their subscription prices. Journals with annual institutional subscription prices that exceed $5000 (such as Tetrahedron Letters and Brain Research) have been highly visible critical targets. There is an extensive literature on journal pricing that goes far beyond the scope of this chapter.  However, when some analysts claim that a shift from paper to electronic media can dramatically reduce a journal’s production costs, and thus its price, it does come within our scope. Okerson (1991) expected that the savings in printing and mailing costs of pure e-journals would "eventually relieve the 'serials crisis.'" More recently, Walker's (1998) article in The American Scientist advocated the position that pure e-journals sponsored by scientific societies can be published very inexpensively and can help to solve the research libraries’ serials crisis.

In the case of printed journals, the subscriber pays for a copy of an issue, receives it, and can store it, lend it, and read the articles for an unlimited period of time. In the case of e-journals, subscribers are paying for access, and after their subscriptions expires their access to the original articles is lost, unless they print copies of articles or download them for archiving.  Libraries may not be able to print and/or archive articles from pure e-journals, depending on their specific license agreements.  Rather they may simply facilitate access to these journals for their patrons by linking to their WWW sites or through Internet services such as Catchword.

There are a variety of licensing configurations and pricing schemes. Publishers may only allow access to e-journals through a limited numbers of computers, or limit the number of library patrons simultaneously accessing the site.  Each type of licensing agreement may be priced differently. In addition, publishers of the p-e journals may offer the electronic version only to those who subscribe to the printed version, offer a special price or combined price for both versions, or price each of them separately.

The American Chemical Society's (ACS) p+e-journal Organic Letters is an interesting example. During the 1990s, there was considerable criticism about Elsevier's pricing of its journal Tetrahedron Letters heading towards $10,000 per year. The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), which is sponsored by the Association of Research Libraries, has been seeking projects that can help to lower journal prices.  SPARC worked with the ACS to develop a new p+e-journal, Organic Letters, in 1998.  The ACS's endorsement of Organic Letters helped it to rapidly attract high quality articles and to be viewed as a significant chemistry journal.  The ACS offers several kinds of institutional subscriptions to Organic Letters. In 2002, these ranged in price from about $2,400 for a copy of the print edition, through about $4,000 for a site license to the electronic edition, to about $4,600 for both editions (see http://pubs.acs.org/orglett ). Organic Letters is not an inexpensive journal, except in relationship to Tetrahedron Letters.  Its electronic edition is more expensive than its print edition! And it developed as a concerted effort by two relatively prestigious organizations, rather than by the actions of a few chemists with an inexpensive WWW server.

Publishers may also apply different pricing polices to different groups of subscribers, such as individuals and libraries. In addition, scholarly societies usually sell journal subscriptions at lower prices to their members and to students. In some cases, such as the ACS, access to electronic versions of their journals is available only to the society's members and to institutional subscribers. Individual ACS members can subscribe to the electronic edition of Organic Letters for $25 per year.

        4. Access and searching capabilities

Readers’ easy accessibility to articles is perceived to be one of the major advantages of e-journals (Okerson, 1991; Tomney & Burton, 1998).  However, perceptions that e-journals are uniformly simple to access and search are based on the Standard Model rather than on a Socio-technical Network analysis.

For example, Okerson (2000) notes that the American Association for the Advancement of Science developed one of the first pure e-journals, the Online Journal of Current Clinical Trials. It was launched in 1992, but was discontinued soon afterwards because it had trouble attracting authors and readers. Okerson attributes this failure to the journals newness. Unfortunately, she doesn't note that this journal was distributed on a CD with special PC-DOS software and was typically available through a medical library. The journal's relatively cumbersome socio-technical accessibility must have played some role in its difficulty in attracting readers (and thus authors).

Today, many scholars in first world countries work in university offices where high-speed Internet connections enable the rapid transmission of networked e-journals. Those working from home or from universities that do not have high-speed Internet connections may have more difficulty accessing the same e-journals, especially if their articles include large graphic files or are stored as huge PDF files. In addition, some e-journals are site licensed to universities and authenticate legitimate readers by their IP addresses. While IP address authentication schemes reduce a readers' dependence upon remembering or managing a set of distinctive passwords, they can also block access to legitimate readers who log in from off-campus locations using an Internet service provider other than their institution. Thus, there can be complex socio-technical contingencies that limit a reader's legitimate access to e-journals, even though she has "Internet access."

The disparities of network access may actually widen “the digital divide”, rather than bridging it as some enthusiasts have postulated. The electronic versions of p-e journals may be especially attractive for individual subscribers in countries where the cost of air delivery is high, but these will not help many scholars in countries where networks are slow and Internet access is limited. Even in the more developed countries, access to US sites is best only during the hours in which most Americans are asleep.

For an article to be read it first has to be located.  Analysts who rely upon the Standard Model sometimes assume that the availability and ease of use of various search engines on the WWW makes searching for research articles very easy. While articles in free pure e-journals may be found by search engines, a reader must be willing to spend time distinguishing research articles from other electronic documents. In addition, many p-e journals try to limit access through registration or subscription and do not allow search engines to access their sites or index their articles.

Further, searching with common WWW search engines does not guarantee that a desired electronic manuscript will be found. Cronin, Snyder, Rosenbaum, Martinson, and Callahan (1998) compared various search engines and their abilities to find information about  distinguished scholars in the Library and Information Sciences. They found dramatic differences among search engines in their abilities to locate these scholars’ publications: from one to 73 articles and from four to 136 conference proceedings were retrieved, depending on the engine.

Ford and Harter (1998) examined the ease of locating pure e-journals through online directories and catalogs. They examined four online directories and two online union catalogs in terms of their coverage, accuracy, currency and agreement of entries for 36 pure e-journals. The study found noticeable differences in those databases. The Associations of Research Libraries’ (ARL) Directory of Electronic Journals, Newsletters, and Academic Discussion Lists included the largest number of the titles (33). RLIN and OCLC listed 31 and 32 journals respectively, and included URLs to the mirror sites of many journals. The CIC directory included 26 titles, and the University of Houston’s Ejournal databases returned 21 pure e-journals.

The numbers of functioning and current URLs revealed that it is difficult to maintain the accuracy of these databases. The highest percentage of working URLs were listed at the University of Houston site (95.2%), followed by the CIC Index (71.7%), and the Ejournal (61.5%); other databases fell below 60%. The least accurate databases also listed gopher and ftp URLs that had expired by 1998. The total percentage of unique http URLs that were functioning and current was 66.7 %, compared to 50% current and functioning URLs overall. The number of different URLs per journal is also interesting. Psycoloquy and Postmodern Culture had 16 and nine different URLs respectively. Further, the researchers found an additional 17 (!) URLs to Psycoloquy through online searches and correspondence – including multiple spellings of the journal's name at an ftp site.

In 2001, Walt Crawford (2002) examined the current status of 104 scholarly pure e-journals that were indexed in the 1995 edition  of the ARL’s ARL) Directory of Electronic Journals, Newsletters, and Academic Discussion Lists. Fifty-seven of these 104 pure e-journals e-p-journals had URL for their gopher sites or WWW sites. Only 17 of these 57 URLs worked in early 2001. After considerable search effort, he found the URLs of 49 of these 104 e-journals that were still publishing and were free to readers, as well as the URLs of  22 others that had ceased publication.

Potential journal readers may be frustrated when they use expired links.  Librarians face the difficulties of deciding which WWW page should be considered a home page, and the variety of pages can make it difficult to determine which page is most current and which one should be cited. In short, the path between a potential reader and an e-journal may no simply be a "link and a click away" - but rather be the product of a complex socio-technical network.

The question remains – why aren't most pure e-journals indexed by publicly available databases? Since pure e-journals and electronic databases are based on the same medium, the transition from one to the other may seem to be automatic. However, socio-technical networks do not reconfigure themselves instantaneously.  First, pure e-journals are not automatically indexed into directories; their citations are identified, selected, organized and then indexed with some human mediation. Second, the decisions of which journals to include may be based on the preferences of a database’s maintainers and a journal’s perceived reputation.  Third, the medium that is presumed to facilitate access to journals may actually impair access to some information if some of the links do not work or if multiple URLs complicate locating the most recent versions.

Existing databases of articles (print or electronic) allow users to search authors, titles, abstracts and, sometimes, full text. However, the relevance of retrieved results depends on three things: the search engine, database construction, and search strategy employed.  Various databases provide different search mechanisms which allow different options to facilitate a search (i.e., simple search, advanced, with thesaurus extension). Most journals and publishers implement much simpler e-searching (by keyword) than do aggregators such as Dialog, Lexis, and Academic Search Elite (Smith, 2000).

Having different search options is a feature of the medium, but implementing them does not necessarily mean that an article will be retrieved.  Changing from a print to an electronic medium requires researchers to apply new search strategies. Since searching mechanisms vary from journal to journal, so they require different searching methods, which necessitates some learning time on the part of readers.

        5. Citations to e-journals

Another potential advantage of e-journals over p-journals is their ability to include active hyperlinks to bibliographical citations. The actual value of this function is still hypothetical since the WWW environment is somewhat unstable and the location of files can be changed over a several year period.  In addition, pure e-journals, as well as the electronic editions of printed journals may disappear. For example, out of 35 publicly accessible pure e-journals studied by Harter (Harter, 1996), five did not appear in the locations provided in his article in the summer of 2001. A more recent study (Zhang, 1998) found that authors who publish in pure e-journals are more willing to cite articles from other pure e-journals than are the authors who publish in pure p-journals. This may result in internal hyperlinking, with the articles in the same pure e-journal hyperlinked to each other. While links to other articles in other journals are common, over time many links will become outdated (see above), and the journal providers face a choice of maintaining accurate links or allowing their articles bibliographies to be contaminated with link rot.

The publication of p-e journals and e-p journals raises a question about which version of an article should be cited? Some journals, such as the Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research, try to avoid this possible confusion by suggesting how their articles should be cited.  One definite advantage of e-journals over pure p-journals is the ability to download citations into citation management programs, such as EndNote.

        6. Interactivity

One form of interactivity between authors and readers is to allow readers to comment on articles that appear in a journal. P-journals vary in the extent to which they include "letters to the editor." Traditional p-journals may print comments about an article in the next issue. In practice it generally takes longer for an article to be read and responses to be written.  In pure e-journals and e-p journals, comments can be submitted and posted more rapidly after the article is published and attached directly to the online version of the article, and/or can appear in discussion lists made available by the publisher. However, adding comments to the electronic versions of print journals after they are electronically received and before the printed versions appear may create confusion – the comments may be available only to some members of the audience, authors of comments may prefer to have their comments included in the print version of the journal, and readers may see greater value in comments that are reviewed before they are made publicly available.

E-journals vary in their practices for publishing readers' comments about their articles.  For example, D-Lib Magazine (a pure e-journal) does not publish comments.  First Monday (a pure e-journal) publishes comments as “Letters to the Editor” in the next issue. The British Medical Journal (a p-e journal) takes advantage of the electronic options by allowing readers to e-mail comments about an article, and to have them rapidly linked to the relevant article. In addition, the BMJ provides a customized alert service, posts citations to related articles that they have published, and offers a citation alert service.

Analyzing interactivity features through the prism of the Standard Model presents them as very powerful communication tools. But a tool is only an instrument to facilitate communication between authors and readers. Interactors reside in different social settings and their communication is moderated not only by the Internet, but by editors and publishers as well. The network between readers and authors develops on many levels - citations, reviews, personal communications - and the interactive features of e-journals are only one part of this network. For example, free comment posting the creates possibility of spam and unprofessional remarks, which can require setting up a socially accepted authority to maintain professional decorum.

        7. Additional e-journal features

E-journals offer the ability to include links to raw data, to attach multimedia files, or to include mathematical algorithms. In practice few p-e journals include these features. Most p-e journals publish their electronic manuscripts as an electronic copy of the printed article. Including new features in different file formats in documents requires readers to have the tools necessary to decode them. Publishers need to ensure that their files can be viewed using publicly accessible software and also provide access to it from the publisher’s WWW site.

Many of the opportunities that the medium has to offer are not used or are deliberately suppressed in order to give the look and feel that the article was published in a print-based journal (e.g., using vertical flow of the pages and consecutive page numbering). An example of such a journal (e-p), Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research (JAIR), was analyzed by Kling and Covi (1995). JAIR publishes its articles in PostScript and PDF formats on its WWW site. Each article is formatted and paginated as it would appear in a printed journal.  By design an article printed from JAIR looks exactly like a photocopy of an article from a traditional p-journal. While access to the electronic version is free of charge, the publishing house, Morgan-Kaufman, also sells a printed version of JAIR as an annual volume.

This strategy has probably facilitated JAIR’s success. The authors cite their articles without revealing that they were published in an e-p journal, thus avoiding any prejudice against the electronic medium. The existence of the printed volume ensures that articles will be accessible regardless of what happens with electronic versions in the future and provides access for those who prefer traditional paper-based issues, or do not have easy access to the Internet6.

An additional advantage of pure e-journals is the possibility that their articles need not be limited in length by considerations of printing and mailing costs. However, this space advantage cannot be exploited in those p-e journals that require the online version to be identical with the printed version.

        8. Summary of the relative advantages e-journals and p-journals

Tables 2A, 2B and 2C summarize the discussion of this subsection. They contrast pure e-journals with p-e journals. In particular, the contrasts appear quite different in the Standard Model of e-journals and in Socio-Technical Network Models of e-journals.

Table 2A. Comparison of Pure E-journals and P-E journals

Pure e - journal
P-e journal
Speed of publication
May be technically quicker by speeding delivery time. Publication time may be longer, since creating two versions of the journal may consume more time.
Socio-Technical NetworkModel
Publication of individual articles may be faster, but publishing a complete issue may be prolonged by editorial decisions to include more articles or to maintain a predictable publishing schedule.  Speed of publication depends on editorial decisions. If the electronic version is published before the print version appears it may be quicker; if they appear simultaneously there may be no difference. 
The costs of paper, printing, binding, delivery, etc. are eliminated.  Depends on type of coding used and number of additional features. Same as printed journal + cost of creating and maintaining electronic versions.
Socio-Technical NetworkModel
 - Cost may be higher as some journals publish in multiple formats to ensure that all subscribes have access to formats they can support. - Cost may also be elevated by price of security software and site maintenance.  - Readers may be forced to get/purchase additional software to be able to retrieve multimedia files – cost is shifted to the users. Even if the electronic version is a copy of the printed one, the costs may be higher due to the need for security and site maintenance. 


Eliminating printing and mailing costs should result in lowered prices. Same as printed journal.
Socio-Technical NetworkModel
Depends upon the business model (ie., whether authentication is required) and features offered.  Each of a journal’s versions can be priced separately.


Table 2B. Comparison of Pure E-journals and P-E journals

Pure e- journal
P-e journal
Standard Model
 - May be limited by poor Internet connection and lack of necessary software. - Assumes that all readers are comfortable with electronic format.  - Does not depend entirely on Internet connection. - Access may be better for researchers, who do not have to visit a library to read a new issue, but can access it from their desks. 
Socio-Technical NetworkModel
Some journals have copies in multiple locations, which can create confusion.  - Articles can be more easily found in databases if the print version was already indexed.- Access may be restricted to some locations by site licensing.
Standard Model
Full text articles can be searched by keyword.  Full text articles can be searched by keyword. 
Socio-Technical NetworkModel
Readers are required to learn new ways of searching and browsing documents, especially if journals and databases vary in their search options. Electronic edition may require readers to learn new ways of searching;
Inclusion in indexing and abstracting services
Standard Model
E-journals can be easily connected to electronic databases. a
Socio-Technical NetworkModel
Indexing services do not include e-journals because providing this service will probably not increase subscriptions.  Printed versions may be included in indexing services, depending on reputation of the journal


Table 2C. Comparison of Pure E-journals and P-E journals

Pure e- journal
P-e journal
Standard Model
Easy feedback on articles though e-mail and discussion lists. The comments can be attached directly to the article. After the electronic version is created the comments may be attached to the article.
Socio-Technical NetworkModel
Comments in discussion lists not 
reviewed, however the discussion list may be moderated.Implementing a protection against spam necessary.
In cases when p and e versions are not the same, authors may prefer to have their comments included in the printed version.
Additional features and Flexibility
Standard Model
Ability to include raw data, animation, movies, mathematical codes, etc.Length 
of the articles and enhancements unlimited.
Ability to include links to raw data, animation, movies, mathematical codes and additional lengthy articles in the online version.
Socio-Technical NetworkModel
 - Reader has to have appropriate tools to be able to view different file formats.  - Many of the pure e-journals use ASCII or HTML only because of cost and accessibility concerns.


 - Adding features to one version of the journal only requires editorial decisions on prices and privileges for different groups of subscribers.  - Currently most of the electronic editions do not take advantage of available options, are just copies of the printed versions. 

B. Complexities of E-journals

While e-journals offer many advantages, they also challenge librarians with new archiving problems and authors may suffer from more frequent plagiarism.  We examine these issues in this subsection.

        1. Archiving and cataloging

Printed journals are usually retained in libraries and in private collections even after the journals cease publication or subscriptions expire. There is a fear that pure e-journals can cease to publish and that their previously published and cited articles will be no longer be available.  Publishers of e-p journals try to overcome this fear by printing a limited version of the journal for libraries so that the articles are always available in print.

Long-term archiving is a concern to many.  Arms (1999) presented three case studies of different approaches to long term storage of electronic articles, analyzing how the ACM Digital Library, the Internet RFC series and D-Lib Magazine archive electronic resources. Arms examined the different factors that may predict the future of these cases. The ACM is an association with over 50 years of tradition, more than 80,000 members, and significant financial resources. The ACM Digital Library is perceived by the ACM's publishing staff to be one of its biggest assets. The academic community may be reasonably confident that this collection will be maintained. The prospects are less certain for the Internet RFC series. Currently, the Internet Engineering Task Force maintains it, but the informal status of the organization does not guarantee that the Internet RFC series will be available in the long term. The Corporation for National Research Initiatives (CNRI), which publishes D-Lib Magazine, depends on (DARPA) grants. If the funding ceases, CNRI may stop publishing D-Lib. With no funds for maintaining the WWW site, the collection may be lost after some period of years.

There are other complexities of managing and reading e-journals, such as the possibilities that they can be stored in multiple locations. Mirroring a journal’s WWW site speeds access from different corners of the world, but also increases its costs, as it requires the maintenance of separate servers and accessing software. In addition, some publishers allow authors to "publish" their electronic manuscripts on their personal WWW sites, which increases the number of copies (and potentially versions) available.

Libraries have to tackle the issues of cataloging e-journals and deciding how to include pure e-journals in their catalogs. The p-e journals are even more complicated, because libraries’ policies vary, with some cataloging each version separately and some cataloging them together. Wilkins (1997) surveyed British libraries and learning centers about their practices of cataloguing p-e journals. Twelve university libraries responded to her survey. One institution responded that they have not yet faced the issue, and three were still debating it and held back by lack of resources. Some respondents were concerned about temporary Pilot Site License agreements that would require a substantial amount of work for cataloging and updating records, and then having to restructure them again if funding for these projects from sources such as The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) were terminated.

Most of the libraries surveyed catalogued one entry per title. In addition, Wilkins' respondents preferred to provide the “real” URL for each journal title, rather than providing a link to the p-e journal publisher's WWW site.  In some universities, e-journals were accessible only from the library’s home page; some universities reported plans to include journal records in a WWW- based library catalog. The dual journal versions created additional difficulties as librarians wanted to add information about access to electronic copies on each printed journals’ records.   Table #3 summarizes some of the complexities of archiving e-journals, as they are viewed through the lenses of Standard Models of e-journals and Socio-Technical network Models of e-journals.

Table 3.  Comparison of pure e-journals with p-e journals

Pure e - journal
P-e journal
Archiving and Cataloguing
Standard Model
In case journal stops publishing there is no guarantied access to the previous issues. Printed copies available in libraries and on private shelves even if the journal ceases publication.
Socio-Technical NetworkModel
Archiving responsibility moved from libraries to publishers.For libraries - shift from issue ownership to access only with different subscription options. Different library cataloguing practices - both versions can be cataloged as one or can be catalogedseparately.

        2. Possibility of direct plagiarism

E-journals are considered to be easy targets for plagiarism, as they enable the direct copying and pasting of sections of one document into another (although some journals try to prevent this by posting their articles in Adobe Acrobat or Postscript formats, which many people would find much more difficult to copy). On the other hand though, today’s technology also allows easier plagiarism from a printed journal, through the use of scanners and character recognition software.

The electronic technologies that simplify plagiarism also may make it easier to detect (Kock, 1999). The posting of files on the WWW can often be traced back to the person who downloaded them and text fragments can be compared for similarity. There are already initiatives to use specialized software for detecting copies and very similar documents in digital libraries, such as SCAM (Stanford Copy Analysis Mechanism (Denning, 1995; Shivakumar & Garcia-Molina, 1995). However because it is impossible to compare each document against thousands of others, it is still easier to copy an article than is to identify plagiarism.

For example, Kock (1999) accidentally discovered that one of his articles had been plagiarized. The chances for successful plagiarism are relatively low in fields where the research projects are highly visible to participating scholars (ie., experimental high energy physics where research data is collected at a few major laboratories). In contrast, a plagiarist may have greater chances of success in fields where the invisible colleges are not tightly knit and where the research could have been conducted "almost anywhere" and by "any of many" competent investigators. Kock works in the field of information systems, which has this less tight knit structure -- a "low visibility" field (Kling and McKim, 2000).

C. Legitimacy of E-journals

One of the most important issues in electronic publishing is the legitimacy of pure e- journals and e-p-journals.  The legitimacy of e-journals can be understood differently by different players in the scholarly communication process: authors, journal editors, and people who conduct academic career reviews, such as the members of promotion and tenure (P&T) committees. Several studies have tried to evaluate the legitimacy of e-journals in specific scholarly communities by examining different aspects of the issue: faculty perceptions, use of e-journal articles, citing behavior, P&T written guidelines, etc.

        1. Usefulness of e-journals
Studies of the perception of e-journals have changed their focus over time. The older studies concentrated on possible benefits of e-journals, while more recent studies ask questions about legitimacy. Respondents to a survey conducted on chemists at Cornell University reported that they expected their access to e-journals would allow them to read more complete articles, spent their reading time more efficiently, and read articles sooner after their publication (Stewart, 1996). For these respondents, the most important features of e-journals were considered to be the ability to create printed copies and to browse text and graphics. The respondents believed that e-journals would soon adopt all the functions of p-journals (e.g., browsing text, graphics capability, flipping through pages, annotating and highlighting text). But one-third did not anticipate that p-journals would ever be replaced by some form of e-journals.

In the Spring of 1994, Butler (1995) studied approximately 500 natural and social scientists who had either published in at least one of ten peer-reviewed pure e-journals or who had served on their editorial boards. She reported that 63% of her respondents felt many of that their colleagues did not perceive their e-journal publication as "real," and 43% of her respondents felt that their colleagues viewed pure e-journals as less important than  pure p-journals.

Brown (1999) reported that less than 50% of the faculty in science fields at the University of Oklahoma obtained journal articles electronically, and 62-65% preferred print versions. Between 23% and 31% of her respondents favored an electronic version (depending on their field). Those who wanted to have access to both versions wanted to be able to print copied articles from the electronic version.

According to a survey conducted by Björk and Turk (2000), researchers in the area of construction information technology and construction management downloaded half of the materials that they read from Internet sites7.  Lenares (1999) studied a diverse but small (500) sample of faculty at 20 research universities in 1998 and in 1999. She found that the number of faculty who reported using e-journals increased (from 48% in 1998 to 61% in 1999), with the biggest increase, from 60% to 90%, in the physical sciences. However pure p- journal usage still predominated  – only 14% of respondents to the survey reported using e-journals frequently, compared with 65% of those who frequently used print journals. While Lenares noted that a large fraction of the “e-journals” listed in the most recent edition of the Association of Research Libraries’ Directory of Electronic Journals were p-e journals rather than pure e-journals, her article does not clearly report how much of the increase in e-journal readership is of pure e-journals versus p-e journals (or both).

Speier, Palmer, Wren, and Hahn (1999) surveyed a sample of the business school faculty of 95 universities whose libraries belong to the Association of Research Libraries.  The results of their study differ from those studies conducted in the sciences. Less than one-third of their sample of 300 scholars reported a “general awareness of electronic publishing;” approximately 16% read articles in some kind of e-journals, and only seven percent had submitted manuscripts to some kind of e-journal (or intended to do so). Business faculty did not perceive e-journals to be of as high in quality as p-journals, which suggests that they were reporting their beliefs about “electronic journals” based on pure-e and e-p-journals. The younger faculty and the more prolific faculty reporter higher levels of awareness of e-journals. Tenured faculty reported more willingness to submit their manuscripts to e-journals. Of special interest is the finding that faculty who served on Promotion and Tenure (P&T) committees were more likely to report greater awareness of e-journals and to read electronic manuscripts. Faculty in more technical disciplines, such as finance, accounting and information systems, were more willing to integrate e-journals into their scholarly work.  These results are similar to those of Tomney and Burton (1998). Faculty from more technically-oriented fields, like science and engineering, were more likely to read e-journals, while faculty from the fields of history and education reported no use of e-journals. However, of those the survey respondents who had read e-journals, the overwhelming majority (71%) considered the quality of the articles in e-journals to be the same as in p-journals.

These studies focused primarily on the process of receiving articles (electronically) and ignored the differences between p-e journals and pure e-journals. Of these studies, only Butler (1995) distinguished between these two types of journals by selecting pure e-journals for study. Today, when the majority of e-journals are p-e-journals, researchers must be careful to learn which versions of an article their informants obtain. Moreover, in some cases, such as when a scholar receives a copy of an article from a colleague, she may be unsure whether it came from some form of e-journal.

        2. Citations to e-journals

A few researchers have used citation analysis to determine the scholarly impact of e-journals. Harter (1996) examined citations to articles in 39 peer-reviewed pure-e and p-e journals. His results suggest that the majority of scholarly, peer-reviewed pure e-journals had negligible influence on scholarly communication in their respective fields in the mid-1990s. Only eight of the 28 pure e-journals had been cited ten or more times over the course of their lifetimes. However, the most cited (and now defunct) pure e-journal, The Public-Access Computer Systems Review, was highly cited relative to other journals in the library and information sciences. Unfortunately, Harter combined citations to articles in pure e-journals and p-e journals in some of his analyses. It is difficult to determine which citations should be associated with the electronic edition of the 11 p-e journals. A similar study of e-journals in the library and information sciences by Yin Zhang (1998) found that during the years 1994-1996, the impact of e-journals increased, though not to a statistically significant extent.

One of the most interesting examples of differences among print journals, p-e journals and pure e-journals can be seen from the case of the journal Pediatrics (Anderson, Sack, Krauss, & O'Keefe, 2001). This journal has been published in print since 1948. In January 1997 the editors added an online-only section, named Pediatrics electronic pages. Articles published in those pages were chosen by an editor from accepted papers, with preference given to those of broader international interest. Abstracts of those articles were published in the printed version of the journal. In July 1998 the editors started publishing the print content online (by subscription), while still maintaining the Pediatrics electronic pages free of charge. Anderson et al. studied articles published in 1997 through 1999 in order to determine how successful articles published online are. They examined WWW usage statistics, citations within the biomedical literature and author perceptions. Interviews with the authors revealed that they perceive online-only publications as second-tier publishing compared to print, and felt that they are not perceived equally by P&T committees and the academic community.

Authors’ fear that articles published in pure e-journals will be devalued is consistent with findings from other studies (for example Schauder, 1994). In contrast with this perception are the results of Andersen et al.’s citation analysis and P&T committees’ opinions. Sixteen per cent of the Pediatrics survey respondents (44) reported that they had applied for tenure since their articles were published in Pediatrics electronic pages and that they included those articles in their portfolio. In all cases, these articles were accepted by their institutions. All of these authors included their Pediatrics electronic pages articles on their resumes, even if they considered these articles inferior to their publications in p-journals.

Articles in Pediatrics electronic pages were cited in a manner similar to articles in Pediatrics, the print journal, and there were no differences in how quickly the articles were cited after publication. The articles that were published in Pediatrics electronic pages were accessed four times as often as the Pediatrics print edition articles on the WWW site. This difference may be due to the fact that the Pediatrics electronic pages are free of charge. One caveat to be mentioned is that only 21% of the readership of Pediatrics are actively engaged in research, and the other readers are primarily practicing pediatricians.

        3. Perception of e-journals in academic career reviews

Presenting of results of studies to peers (and sometimes the public) is an important part of a researcher’s job. The quality, and to some extent the quantity, of his/her publications in recognized scholarly journals are the measures typically used in a variety of academic career reviews -- for initial appointments, for research grants, for promotion and tenure processes, and for periodic salary reviews.

Faculty seeking promotion may be under special pressure to publish their scholarship. However, publishing is important at every stage in an active scholar’s career, especially at research universities.  But not all publications are considered to be of equal value.  Many scholars compete to have their work published in more prestigious journals, which attract larger audiences of their peers.

Publishing in pure e-journals may be especially appealing to untenured faculty who are often advised to rapidly produce numerous publications.  However, there is a common assumption that publications in pure e-journals will not be regarded as equal in quality to publications in p-journals. For this reason, some faculty may not want to publish their best work in pure e-journals or e-p-journals, fearing that review committees will not consider it as valuable.  The assumption of the lesser value of e-journals (other than p-e journals) may result from unfamiliarity with their peer-review processes as well as the fact that many of them are new titles that have to establish a reputation for quality.

Only a few studies examine P&T procedures with regard to e-journals and the attitudes of P&T committee members towards the legitimacy of pure electronic publications.  Cronin and Overfelt (1995) examined 49 sets of P&T guidelines from various universities and their departments, and found only one mention of electronic publishing media, and it seemed to refer to non-refereed electronic bulletins. The other guidelines did not mention electronic publishing, but put an emphasis on the quality of the research rather than its quantity.  Quality was assessed by whether an article was peer reviewed and by the perceived quality or status of the journal in which the work was published. Journals were also evaluated by the ratio of acceptances to rejections, editorial board membership and refereeing policies. One of the most important aspects was longevity and currency of the journal, which may be a factor responsible for perceiving new e-journals as being of lesser scholarly value.

Formal guidelines are only one element in academic career reviews. The people who serve on review committees, such as P&T committees, play a critical role when they interpret and apply their guidelines to specific cases. The analysis of unsolicited comments from provosts, deans, chairs and others, which accompanied the guidelines sets submitted for Cronin and Overfelt’s study, suggests that what is most taken into consideration while reviewing a scholarly portfolio is not the kind of publishing medium but the refereeing process. E-journal articles that have gone through the same peer review process as p-journal articles were likely to be treated in the same manner.  However, some respondents stated that in many fields evaluating articles from pure e-journals was not an active issue as their colleagues did not publish in them and thus their P&T committees did not evaluate pure e-journals.

Despite a modest growth in the number of pure e-journals since 1995, the situation may not have changed much in the late 1990s. Sweeney (2000) surveyed the administrators and faculty of Florida State University about their perceptions of the acceptability of e-journals for promotion and tenure.  The survey did not distinguish between pure e-journals and p-e journals (which was pointed out by some respondents); thus the quantitative data of this study is problematic.  However, Sweeney included comments by the administrators and faculty, which constitute a rich source of information about the attitudes of the scholarly community toward electronic publishing.  The results of the survey are consistent with the findings of Cronin and Overfelt. The respondents were not aware of P&T guidelines with regard to electronic publishing, but pointed out that the refereeing process is a key issue. As many of the pure e-journals and e-p journals were then relatively new, the respondents suggested that researchers should be required to attach a description of a pure e-journal’s reviewing process to articles they included in their portfolios. However, faculty seeking a promotion review submitted relatively few articles published in pure e-journals.

The results of these studies suggest that in the 1990‘s many scholars were unwilling to submit their work to pure e-journals and e-p journals because they feared that those publications would be less valued in academic reviews than are publications in p-journals (or p-e journals). On the other hand, designers of P&T guidelines did not see the need to address the value of pure e-journals because relatively few scholars published in them. The small number of publications in pure e-journals and e-p journals may also be byproduct of their relatively small number today.  In any case, the medium of a publication does not seem to be an important factor in P&T review processes.

        4. Peer-review processes of e-journals

Peer review is perceived to be the primary characteristic in legitimizing scholarly journals, including e-journals. The stereotypical peer review of a manuscript requires that it be evaluated for its relevance to the journal, its likely importance and its scholarly quality by specialists who are located outside of a journal’s office. In practice, journals vary in the number of peer reviews that they solicit, the specific processes that they use for selecting reviewers, the possibilities that authors and reviewers could identify each other, and so on (Weller, 2001:15-27).

While the concept of peer review is over 200 years old, it became most widely adopted after World War II. Weller’s (2001) superb integrated review of the research about peer review practices identifies some of their key variations, as well as the few studies that examine the impact of peer-reviews. These studies found that authors felt that peer-review generally did not result in substantive changes in their manuscripts. However, authors felt that peer-reviews generally helped them to improve the structure and clarity of their analyses and conclusions.

The peer-review process has been criticized for being both lengthy and undemocratic. One of the proposed solutions to change this status quo was to replace reviews with readers’ comments (signed or anonymous) on articles. The comments would help authors make necessary changes, and would inform other readers about the quality of the articles.

In traditional scholarly publishing, readers do not know the names of the reviewers of a particular article, but may know the members of the editorial boards and/or they trust that an editor will select reviewers with appropriate expertise. When readers can comment on articles in open peer commentary  (such as for the ETAI or Cogprints), readers evaluate both the posted articles and the comments about them. The names and electronic signatures of the commentators may give readers some appreciation of their relevant expertise. (If these review processes were completely anonymous, some less-honest authors could post their own positive comments.)

Some new initiatives attempt to restructure peer review, by enabling a journals' readers to participate in the process. The differences between these more open processes and more traditional peer review are in the way that the public’s comments are treated in the process (Weller, 2001). Also different practices in different disciplines may be due to the nature of the research studies conducted. Weller (2001:303) suggests that public comments may be more useful in those disciplines that rely upon wide discussion than in those that rely upon very specialized empirical data.

Let’s examine some examples of e-journals and their peer–review processes. Wood and Hurst (2000) describe an experiment conducted in 1996 by the Royal Society with the journal Proceedings: Biological Sciences. This experiment applied the traditional model of peer review, while utilizing a WWW site to facilitate the process through the Electronic Submission and Peer Review (ESPERE) service. The authors would post their articles in PDF format in password-protected personal workspaces. The editor would then e-mail the referees the paper’s URL, and the referees would submit their comments through a WWW-based report form.

The experiment had promising results – almost half of the authors contacted  (23) took advantage of this offer. After the study, authors were asked to evaluate the service. They seemed to be satisfied with this form of submission, once they had invested the time to learn how to use it.  However, they expressed concern that the exclusive use of this method would restrict submissions and referees to countries that have high quality Internet access.

Reviewers chosen for the experiment were experienced computer users, who work on the Internet daily. Their comments were also positive. Eighty-nine per-cent of reviewers  (39) reported that they would like to receive papers for review electronically. The majority reported that their electronic review took less time (60%) or the same time (29%) as a traditional review of a paper manuscript, and was less (46%) or equally (43%) difficult. The results of this experiment encouraged the editors to change their submission policy. After August 2001 Proceedings Biological Sciences stopped accepting the paper submission of manuscripts; only electronic manuscripts can now be submitted for review and possible publication in this p-e journal.

A similar approach was tested by the p-e journal Medical Journal of Australia (MJA)(Protocol of peer review study II, 1998). Articles submitted for publication were circulated among reviewers via the WWW (with password protected entry) and the review process was conducted as an online discussion (which took 3 to 4 weeks) among the journal’s editors, reviewers, authors, and a small number of consultants who represented the journal’s readership. After acceptance, articles and records of the review process were published on the Internet for open review by the readers. After four weeks of open review the articles were published in print.

The standard reviewing procedure for the MJA is "double blind." For the Internet study reviewers were asked for permission to publish their reviews for an open review period on the journal's WWW site. Almost two-thirds of the 90% who agreed to participate signed their reviews; the rest posted anonymously (with their identities known to the editor). In the second stage of the review, anonymous comments were e-mailed to the editor, who judged their merit. In this study most of the participants in both stages of the process did identify themselves by name. This process was still under evaluation in 2001.

A similar system is used by the editors of Journal for Interactive Media in Education (Sumner & Shum, 1996). After submission, an article is placed on WWW site and reviewers use a computer-supported collaborative argumentation (CSCA) environment to develop their comments. The software allows them to work in two windows – one displays the article text while the second is used for their comments for each section of the article The editor pulls together all the comments, and the article and reviewers’ comments are then posted on the WWW site. The process moves into an open discussion phase, where authors, reviewers and readers can engage in debate. The editor decides if the article is to be accepted and which changes are necessary. The discussion can continue even after publication8.


This chapter has examined analytical and empirical research about the roles and uses of e-journals in scholarly communication. Applied research is specially responsive to the framing of issues at the time when it is conceived and conducted. The 1990s has been the era of the practical rise of e-journals, which by the turn of the century  numbered over 8,000 (Okerson, 2000). However, the dominant form of e-journals changed three times in the 1990s, and some of the research was not sufficiently sensitive to these rapid and important shifts. In the early 1990s, pure e-journals that were circulated by mailing lists were dominant. In the mid-1990s, pure e-journals that were stored on searchable gopher and  WWW sites  were dominant. By 1998, p-e-journals were by far the most numerous.

Tenopir and King (2000:61-65) trace discussions of scholarly e-journals back to the 1930's, but identify the topic as one of active federally sponsored research in the US in the 1970-1980s, and in the U.K. in the 1980s. Tenopir and King note that researchers in this era studied scientific communication, and emphasized the role of  e-journals in improving its efficiency and reducing its costs. In particular, they envisioned centralized article and bibliographic databases reducing the number of communication channels and  reducing redundant communication (i.e., multiple publication of the same study).

Since 1990 there has been a tremendous transformation in the discourses about e-journals, as well as practices. Okerson (1991) contrasts conservative and revolutionary visions of e-journals. In her view, a conservative approach to electronic manuscripts has them paralleling the format of the traditional pure p-journal, except that the articles might be made available individually, rather than packaged in issues. She praised Stevan Harnad as an "electronic seer" who envisioned the Internet as a medium to support new forms of publishing, including articles enriched with sound and images, as well as forums that would support open peer commentary.

In the early 1990s, a number of peer-reviewed pure e-journals were launched that were free to their electronic manuscripts authors and readers. Some, such as Psycoloquy (established in 1990), Postmodern Culture (established in 1990) and the Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research (JAIR) (established in 1993), seem to be thriving in 2002. Regrettably, a number of the earliest pure e-journals have ceased publication. These include the EJournal, the Public-Access Computer Systems Review (PACS-Review), the Interpersonal Computing and Technology Journal (IPCT), and the Electronic Journal on Virtual Culture (EJVC). Nevertheless, there has been a continuing growth in the number of peer-reviewed pure e-journals and e-p-journals through the late-1990s. Crawford (2002) identified 50 such journals that were publishing in  1995, and still alive in 2001. In the early 1990s, the term electronic journal and their instantiation as pure e-journals that were free to readers were effectively synonymous. Even so, there were some important shifts in the e-journals' format. Until 1993-1995, those that were based in ASCII text were initially distributed by electronic mailing lists, such as LISTSERVs. Some pure e-journals soon added access via searchable sites (such as gopher and the Veronica search engine) in the mid-1990s. And many of these pure e-journals were reorganized on WWW sites during 1995-1997. These technological shifts generally expanded potential access to these pure e-journals and their archives.

Some analysts hoped that new e-journals would provide important new affordances, such as enriched media, discussions of articles, cross-linking articles, and so on (Borgman, 2000:90). Relatively few of these pure e-journals added the new affordances that some had hoped would be integral to the new breed of e-journals. Psycoloquy did create a forum for open peer commentary, while JAIR utilized a Usenet newsgroup, comp.ai, for the discussion of published articles. The Electronic Transactions on Artificial Intelligence developed a process where articles could be discussed in an electronic forum before it was formally submitted for peer-review and potential publication. Internet Archaeology enabled authors to include large numbers of photographs with their articles, and a few of their articles include well over 100 photographs. However, these examples illustrate a relatively small number of exceptions. An intriguing example is JAIR, which instructed its authors to format their articles so that when they were printed they would be indistinguishable from those that were photocopied from traditional p-journals, and thus have their legitimacy less likely to be questioned.

The mid 1990s marked a transition from a time when this easy equation of e-journals with pure e-journals that were free of charge to readers was valid, to a period in which p-e journals that were often site licensed to institutional subscribers became dominant. For example, the Johns Hopkins University Press initiated Project Muse in 1995 as a way to make several dozen of its p-journals available as p-e-journals. Project Muse rapidly acquired the pure e-journal Postmodern Culture, and shifted its access model to one that requires a paid subscription. While Muse currently allows individual subscriptions to its two pure e-journals, subscriptions to various subsets of its collection of over 100 p-e-journals is restricted to institutions. Further, Project Muse authenticates readers with an IP address checking schemes that limits off campus access through an Internet service provider other than the subscribing institution.

By 1996,  several large STM publishers created electronic editions of some of their p-journals (Brown and Duda, 1996). By 1998, these new p-e editions numbered in the thousands. Unfortunately, they are uncritically mixed with pure e-journals and e-p-journals by library scientists such as Okerson (2000) and Tenopir and King (2001). As we have shown in this chapter, this uncritical mixing complicates the already vexing issues of assessing the relative costs, quality, accessibility, legitimacy and uses of electronic and paper media for journal publication. Thus, we have introduced the nomenclature of journal types to help sort among the different e-journal formats and make our analyses more precise.

The transition of the late 1990s which made thousands of p-e journals accessible has important control dimensions as well. In particular, some of the early enthusiasts for pure electronic journals had hoped that they would be sufficiently simple and inexpensive to produce and distribute that they could be organized by scholars rather than by professional publishers. Borgman (2000:84-90) provides a detailed and balanced critique of these visions. Some of the earliest pure e-journals seemed to fulfill this promise. However, the flood of p-e journals from large STM publishers and scientific societies in the late 1990s, enabled traditional scholarly publishers to retain editorial control (and profit) from the vast majority of e-journals.

Even though the current scholarly e-journal system is primarily publisher driven, the p-e journals do offer some important convenience to readers. Unfortunately, the recent empirical research about e-journal usage has been conducted with closed form surveys that seem not to be very sensitive to the different forms of e-journals and the different conditions under which scholars may access and read them. As we noted in Tables 2A, 2B, and 2C, as well as in the text, pure e-journals and p-e-journals are often extremely different in their behavior when viewed in a socio-technical perspective.

We do not know how scholars actually differentiate between pure e-journals, e-p journals, p-e journals pure p-journals, and p+e-journals. We can speculate that they evaluate their relative accessibility and also rely upon traditional indicators of scholarly merit which may not relate to the distribution medium.

Some potential virtues of pure e-journals, such as price reductions, have actually come from substantial organizational initiatives rather than from a few scholars organizing a pure e-journal with an inexpensive WWW server. The example of SPARC and the ACS collaborating to produce the p+e-journal Organic Letters illustrates this observation.

As traditional scholarly publishers have become the dominant developers and providers of e-journals in the late 1990s, there has been a shift in attention to radical innovation coming in the form of venues that support the publishing electronic manuscripts that have not yet been peer reviewed, rather than from e-journals. The electronic manuscript repository (arXiv.org) organized by Paul Ginsparg for physics, mathematics, and computer science has become the subject of excitement about possible extensions to other disciplines, as well as substantial controversy about these extensions (Kling & McKim, 2000).

Walker's (1998) article about the role of pure e-journals in solving the serials crisis was the stimulus for The American Scientist to sponsor a lively on-line forum about scholarly electronic publishing, moderated by Stevan Harnad. That forum continues to be active into early 2002. However, under Harnad's moderation, the discussion shifted its emphasis to issues related to centralized electronic manuscript repositories, such as their costs, quality control, copyright, and long term archiving.

These are not completely separate topics, since many journal editors are unwilling to publish articles that may have been readily available as unrefereed electronic manuscripts. Thus the behavior of journal editors can influence scholars' willingness to circulate unrefereed electronic manuscripts. Conversely, there are interesting speculations that the availability of articles in freely available electronic manuscript form (even after they have been published in a peer-reviewed venue) may increase the extent to which they are read and cited. In some fields, such as particle physics, mathematics and computer science, it is common for peer reviewed published articles to be freely available as unrefereed electronic manuscripts at an earlier stage of their development. Scholarly communication via unrefereed electronic manuscripts is a sufficiently complex topic that it warrants a separate ARIST chapter (Kling, forthcoming). We suspect that the widespread availability of articles on special WWW sites prior to their acceptance by journals will probably do more to improve scholarly communication than will the development of numerous new e-journals. Even so, we do not believe that e-journals are unimportant. In fact, there is much to learn about their roles in scholarly communication. In closing, we suggest some new lines of research about e-journals.

Tenopir and King (2000:83-104) try to characterize the "scholarly journal system" in ways that do not clearly identify different versions of journals, access points, workplaces and differentiated features. In our view, the various forms of e-journals and the variety of ways that readers can access them so complicate "the system” that it is much less orderly than their account suggests. It is much more like a constellation of resources rather than an easily described system. Further, this e-journal constellation is situated within a heterogeneous galaxy of scholarly communication resources, that include the informal collegial sharing of manuscripts, research manuscript series, disciplinary electronic manuscript repositories, conference proceedings, p-journals, monographs and edited collections. These galaxies constitute, in part, a publication continuum for scholars (Kling & McKim, 1999).

The structure of an e-journal constellation and its larger galaxy of communication resources varies from one discipline to another. Particle physicists are renowned for their reliance on electronic manuscripts that have not yet been peer reviewed while American Chemical Society journal editors continue to exclude such manuscripts from their journals. However, a chemist’s informational galaxy may be 'electron rich" if she has access to Chemical Abstracts and the ACS's e-journal collections and new services, such as ASAP. It also may be "paper rich" if she continues to subscribe to some paper editions of p-e chemistry journals or to print out and retain paper copies of electronic manuscripts.

Tenopir and King's map of a "scholarly journal system" was probably more accurate for the 1970s and 1980s than for this century. It is probably more accurate for disciplines, such as history, that have not deeply invested in e-journals and/or electronic archives than it is for disciplines, such as economics, that have invested more heavily in publishing electronic manuscripts.

Where do different kinds of e-journals fit within scholars' information galaxies? The literatures about e-journals are loaded with intriguing speculations that can be sorted out with careful empirical research that is sensitive to the disciplinary galaxy of scholarly resources as well as to the institutional location and activities of authors, editors, readers and other key participants.

Consider the speculation that the use of electronic manuscript repositories is reducing the amount of journal reading.  Of course, it is more likely in fields where such repositories are most active.  How does access to electronic archives of any kind, whether e-journals or agglomerations   of journals -- such as EBSCO's Academic Search Premier and Dow Jones Interactive -- alter scholars' information galaxies?

Relatively few e-journals have experimented with new formats, such as open peer review or extensive multimedia supplements to articles. It would help to know how much the scholars in disciplines with these enriched journals value these extensions and how they engage them. For example, how much do artificial intelligence specialists read the Electronic Transactions on Artificial Intelligence which supports an open peer review period, and what encourages them to actively participate or not to participate in the open discussions? How much do archaeologists track Internet Archaeology because its articles are often richly documented with photographs?

Some prestigious scholarly societies have started new e+p journals (such as Organic Letters) that have rapidly become important in their fields. However, other societies have initiated pure e-journals. For example, the Association for Information Systems (AIS) started two peer-review pure e-journals around 1998: Communications of the AIS and the Journal of the AIS. Where do these journals fit in the constellation of information systems journals? Who publishes in them? Who reads them? How do information systems scholars use them? What kind of legitimacy do they have relative to other information systems journals? Most seriously, we need to learn about the ways that the reading of, writing for, and citation of pure e-journals such as these fits into the complex mix of socio-technical access, access to alternative sources, and career issues.

Most of the behavioral studies of e-journal use have been conducted at research intensive institutions, and either focus on primary research use or don't distinguish between the ways that scholars use journals (ie., for teaching, for review articles, etc.) It would help us to learn whether electronic access to journals - via e-journals or via agglomerations -- increase their accessibility to faculty and students at less research intensive universities. Do they increase their accessibility to secondary readers (such as textbook authors)?

Many of the studies of e-journal use are based on closed form surveys. Some of these studies have been very useful, although we noted that most of them fail to make sufficiently refined distinctions between types of e-journals in their questions. However, closed form surveys are likely to be too blunt an instrument to effectively answer some of these questions about the roles of e-journals in the more complicated scholarly journal constellations. As we discussed in the section about access to e-journals, research must be sensitive to the socio-technical networks that link readers and e-journal articles. Further, constellation mapping requires that researchers be able to learn where and how scholars position specific e-journals relative to others in their constellation, and -- most important -- why! If the constellation of e-journals is rapidly changing, we need to develop a theoretical understanding of its dynamics as well as an understanding of its time-dependent cartography.


Funding was provided in part by NSF Grant #SBR-9872961 and with support from SLIS at Indiana University. This article benefited from helpful discussions about electronic scholarly communication with a number of colleagues, including Ingemar Bohlin, David Cheney, Blaise Cronin, Noriko Hara, and Geoff McKim. Sharon Ross provided important editorial assistance. Anonymous referees provided useful guidance.


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1. Many aspects of peer review -- including reviewer biases -- have been systematically examined in medicine. See the Fourth International Congress on Peer Review in Biomedical Publication, 2001, http://www.amaassn.org/public/peer/peerhome.htm. Also, see Weller's (2001) comprehensive monograph about peer review in a variety of disciplines.

2. A third kind of model, a Socio-technical Systems Model, examines communication forums in the context of some of the relevant social systems that shape their characters and participants (e.g., copyright systems). The Socio-technical Systems Model shares the Standard Model's conception of media differences, but examines how organizations and other actors may differently structure electronic media for different purposes. In these models, the ways that (electronic) media are socially structured will play a major role in determining which of their features will be emphasized (for example Sosteric, 1996). Sosteric examines "how individual electronic scholarly publication projects have challenged the traditional publishing houses by offering alternative models of scholarly publication that more closely fit with the needs of the academy." He also examines commercial publishers' countermoves, especially their efforts to rapidly create electronic versions of their printed journals and sell these in ways that maintain their prices to libraries and individuals. Sosteric conceptualizes electronic media as relatively plastic, and the form of e-journals (including fee-driven subscription-based access) as being shaped by publishers' business interests.

Socio-technical Systems Models separate those artifacts and relationships that are viewed as technological from the actors and relationships that are deemed to be social. These models emphasize the importance of understanding technological artifacts in relationship to social behavior

These Socio-technical Systems Models are similar to the socio-technical systems theories that are gaining popularity in fields such as human-computer interaction (Eason, 1988) and Computer-supported Cooperative Work (Bannon & Schmidt, 1989). These approaches are major advances over technologically focussed alternatives because they encourage designers to actively engage with the people who are likely to use their systems, and to carefully examine the relationships between IT design and subtle work and communicative practices.  But they do maintain sharp boundaries between what is technological and what is social.

3. For example, an analysis of an astronomer’s the use of articles that are published in The Astrophysical Journal  based on the Standard Model of might focus on its special information processing features, such as hyperlinks between its articles and its making available the texts of new articles soon after they are accepted for publication.  A Socio-Technical Network analysis might examine how the astronomer who works at a campus facility may access some of these features via a site licensed version of The Astrophysical Journal. However, when she works from home and uses another Internet service provider (ISP), she would be unable to use her university’s site license to the journal. Instead she might search for recent articles in an alternative location – such as the “open access” astrophysics database on arXiv.org.

4. The length of the “blackout period” depends upon the journal that is publishing an e-version on PubMedCentral.

5. Many e-journals offer to send tables of contents regularly to their subscribers. However, some journals, such as Science Online, offer to send their subscribers an email note when a new article cites an article that the subscriber specifies.

6. While it is unlikely that anyone who is interested in AI research does not have good Internet access this observation is applicable to many other e-p journals.

7. The results of this survey have to be interpreted with caution, as the survey was conducted through the Web, thus introducing self-selection, which limits the generalizeability of their results.

8.  Zoltan Nadasdy (1997), the editor of the now defunct pure e-journal Electronic Journal of Cognitive and Brain Sciences, suggested another approach to the peer review process, which he calls “Interactive Publishing.” In this system, the process of submission and review is highly automated. Submitted articles were posted on the journal’s WWW site and readers could rate the quality of the papers. They could fill out a Likert-style form containing questions such as: How significant is the problem discussed in the paper? (not significant –extremely significant ); How appropriate is the method used to investigate the problem? (inappropriate - quite appropriate); How well founded is the conclusion based on the empirical evidence? (not founded – well founded); How original are the findings? (not original – absolute original); What is the expected future impact? (no impact – strong impact). The process was completely anonymous.  Articles that received a score of 80% or higher  were to be transferred to an archive of accepted papers. Between 1997 and 1999, the  EJCBS had only 6 articles posted for review, and none accepted. By 2001, the journal's WWW site had been removed.