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The Effect Of Electronic Journals On Scholarly Communication

10291 words - 41 pages

The Effect of Electronic Journals on Scholarly Communication

In recent years, scholarly communication has virtually exploded into the on-line electronic world. This has brought a number of demonstrable benefits to the scholarly communication process as well as highlighting a number of inefficiencies and obstacles to the full deployment of information technology. However, the explosion has also brought a spate of credulous accounts concerning the transformative potential of information technology. These accounts, though well intentioned, do not contribute to a sociological understanding of information technology in general, or its effect on the scholarly communication process more specifically. In order to develop our understanding of the relevant issues, a critical and empirical analysis will need to be undertaken in order to get out from under the cultural values that have clouded the analysis of information technology thus far.
(1)In just a few short years the Internet has seen a spectacular growth in the amount of scholarly material available. Some sense of the rate of growth of electronic journals is given by the Association of Research Librarians directory of electronic journals. [1] In 1991 there were 110 journals and academic newsletters listed in their directory. This grew to 133 in 1992, 240 in 1993, 400 in 1994 (Okerson, 1994) and 700+ in 1995. There has also been remarkable growth in the number of refereed electronic journals from 74 in 1994 to 142 in 1995 (Okerson, 1995).
Maverick electronic journals are no longer alone on the Internet. A string of initiatives has placed a stunning amount of textual material on-line for purchase or direct retrieval. For example publishing companies and University presses (Duxbury, 1994), recognizing both the promise and threat of electronic publication, have begun to set up shop on the internet. In addition, there are a number of initiatives designed to reproduce classic and modern texts by digital imaging or SGML [2] markup. [3]

The EJS has experienced similar growth. From sporadic access to the WWW server just over a year ago when the journal was founded, we are now viewed by over 1500 individuals each month from 38 countries around the world. Most documents are served to the United States, Canada, Australia, Germany and Sweden. However access by other countries is steadily increasing. [4] Curiously though, the EJS remains virtually the only journal devoted to sociology on the internet. At the time of this writing, the Yahoo index [5], generally considered the most comprehensive index for the WWW, of Sociology Journals contains two listings. One is for the Electronic Journal of Sociology and the other for a Hungarian journal entitled Replika.

In this paper, I will provide an overview of the issues surrounding the emergence of electronic journal publication while attempting to relate them to our experience at the Electronic Journal of Sociology. Some of these issues are...

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