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Hypermedia Online Publishing: the Transformation of the Scholarly Journal

9.4.2 Insights from research literature

Part of the survey by Gotsch and Reich [Gotsch and Reich, 1997] dealt with the role of librarians as institutional subscribers to JBC. They found that in smaller organisations the role of the librarian with respect to collection policies was largely clerical. In larger organisations the librarians played a much larger role. This gatekeeper role with respect to electronic publishing acquisition was strongly influenced by cost. They argue that the traditional library role of bringing together the users demand for publications with the publishers supply will continue given current technology and divisions of labour. However, this role is carried out in an environment of budget and institutional constraints which have a profound influence on the outcome. Atkinson agrees that the library has an ongoing role to play between "the information seeker and the information sought" [Atkinson, 1993, p. 211].

[Hitchcock et al., 1997] provides an example of the new technologies allowing a stakeholder to change roles. Catchword Publishing was originally founded on production and subscription services. They now aim to provide a complete scholarly publishing environment on the Internet, based around their proprietary RealPage document format technology. Like Adobe's Acrobat, RealPage converts from Postscript but claims to produce smaller file sizes. The intention of Catchword is to host a significant number of publications (at the time of writing 131) and provide support for managing subscriptions. In effect, they have added publication hosting (a form of publishing) to the services they already provide.

Fytton Rowland argues for little change in roles from the current status quo:

in the long term journals will be a lot cheaper than the print journals of today; that some of them, despite their lower prices, will be sold for profit; that the media conglomerates that dominate publishing today will still be involved in selling some of them; and that individual academics, groups of academics, learned societies, and university presses will publish others. In other words, I expect to see a diversity similar to today's, but with the competition from academics hostile to publishers having driven prices down [Rowland, 1996]

Atkinson argues on the other hand that:

It is very unlikely - and it would certainly be very undesirable - for the commercial publishing industry to continue to play the same dominant role in scholarly publication in the online environment that it has in the paper environment: that would be economically unacceptable and technically unnecessary. [Atkinson, 1993, p. 211]

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© Andrew Treloar, 2001. * http://andrew.treloar.net/ * andrew.treloar@gmail.com