Moving to electronic content rather than printed content also allows for a range of multimedia content that is expensive or impossible to provide in print.
A good example of something that is possible but expensive in print is colour. Once one moves past the cover of most scholarly journals, one rarely encounters any colour (either in graphics or photographs). This has led to a long tradition of multiple barely-distinguishable crosshatch patterns to differentiate variables in graphs. For some applications, colour is nearly essential to an accurate description of the research and the lack of it causes significant difficulties and circumlocutions. In an on-line environment, colour is nearly free: there is some increase in transmission speed due to larger file sizes and those user without colour screens (a shrinking minority) will be unable to view the colour but these are fairly minor problems. It is true that the hundreds or thousands of colours available on most display screens are inadequate for some demanding image requirements but these are fairly rare in scholarly communication.
Examples of things that are impossible in print are links to digital objects such as sound or video files as part of an article. Sound can be used for music clips (for an example of this see [McNeilly, 1995]) or for phonetic samples in a linguistics journal. Video can be used for performances (for an example of this see [Magrini, 1995]) or visualizations of complex phenomena [Mustard, 1994]. Extending the concept of document to include such objects (or even collections of such objects) is an ongoing research challenge [Furuta, 1995].
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© Andrew Treloar, 2001. * http://andrew.treloar.net/ * email@example.com