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13.08.01, 20 Years of TMR (and survey)

13.08.01, 20 Years of TMR (and survey)

Dear TMR Reader,

Think back to 1993. What was your computer like? There was no worldwide web, only something called the gopher, through which you could access things like library catalogues...

That was the context in which, exactly 20 years ago, TMR began publishing book reviews as email messages! The journal has always been exclusively digital, with no print version, and it has always been open-access, which means that subscriptions to the listserv and access to the website are free and available to anyone. As such, it is one of the oldest online, open-access journals around: in 1993, there were 45 such journals, in 1994 (our first year on the list) there were 181, and today there are 9953!

Founded by James O'Donnell and Eugene Vance, the Bryn Mawr Medieval Review (BMMR) was initially housed and funded by the University of Washington. In 1996, it moved to Western Michigan University and took the name The Medieval Review (TMR); it was housed at the Medieval Institute and funded by the Medieval Institute, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Department of History. Finally, in 2007 TMR moved to Indiana University, Bloomington, where it is housed in the Medieval Studies Institute, and funded by Medieval Studies, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Departments of History and the History of Art. The entire medieval scholarly world owes these entities a debt for enabling TMR's services.

We currently have around 6000 subscribers to the two listservs (TMR and BMR) who receive reviews as email; these subscribers are found in over 50 countries on every inhabited continent.

As an electronic publication, TMR has efficiently controlled its operating expenses, but a project on this scale/of this scope does cost money. Annual expenses include a full-time (15-20 hour/week) graduate student assistant, mailing envelopes, and postage for shipping review copies of books. We also require office space, a computer, and a printer. We are very fortunate that our website is maintained free of charge by IU Scholarworks. Our volunteer Editors contribute considerable amounts of time to keep the journal running. A full listing of editors from the past 20 years can be found at

Many of our operations have remained much the same for the past 20 years. We have deliberately kept our reviews in the same simple format, so that they can be accessed by viewers with the widest possible number of email readers and browsers. The process of the mailing review copies of books, however, has changed dramatically. In the past year, we mailed 270 review copies of books, and published 256 reviews. Since the US Postal Service eliminated international surface mail in 2007, our postage expenses have skyrocketed. The average cost to ship a book outside the US is now $30 (vs. $3 for domestic shipments). On the other hand, the digital revolution in publishing means that books are increasingly being published in electronic as well as paper form, so the postage issue may be transforming itself.

On the occasion of our 20th anniversary, we are taking the opportunity to think about where we are as a publication, how we fit into an electronic publishing world that is much larger and more diverse than it was when we began, and how we might best proceed in the future. You, the readers of the journal, are our audience and our labor force, and we greatly value your opinion. We therefore thought it would be opportune to survey you, to ask ten VERY QUICK questions in order to provide us with data that we can use better to organize ourselves:

We thank you in advance for your opinions and advice, which will help to carry us into the next 20 years.

Sincerely yours,

The Editors

The Medieval Review