Saturday, December 8, 2007

ARL Publishes Report on Journals' Transition from Print to Electronic Formats

Washington DC—The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) has published "The E-only Tipping Point for Journals: What's Ahead in the Print-to-Electronic Transition Zone," by Richard K. Johnson and Judy Luther. The report examines the issues associated with the migration from dual-format publishing toward electronic-only publication of journals.

Publishers and libraries today find themselves in an extended transition zone between print-only and e-only journals. Both parties are struggling with the demands of dual-format publishing as well as the opportunity costs of keeping electronic journals operating within the bounds of the print publishing process, which are increasingly taxing the status quo for publishers, libraries, authors, and readers. There are suggestions that this transitional phase is especially challenging to small publishers of high-quality titles and places them at a disadvantage in relation to large, resource-rich publishers as they compete for subscribers, authors, and readers. The question of when dual-format journals will complete the transition to single-format (electronic) publishing is taking on increasing urgency.

The persistence of dual-format journals suggests that substantial obstacles need to be surmounted if the transformation to e-only publication is to be complete. This study seeks to create a better understanding of the dynamics of the transition process, both for librarians and for publishers. Neither publishers nor librarians independently control the process and the need to coordinate their activities greatly increases the complexity of the transition.

The report provides a synthetic analysis of librarian and publisher perspectives on the current state of format migration, considering the drivers toward electronic-only publishing and barriers that are slowing change. The authors provide an assessment of likely change in the near term and recommend strategic areas of focus for further work to enable change.

The work is based in large part on interviews conducted between June and August 2007 with two dozen academic librarians and journal publishers. Publishers and librarians were consulted equally in recognition that these changes pose significant issues of coordination. Interviews were conducted with collection officers and others at ARL member libraries and publishing staff of societies and university presses, publishing platform hosts, and publishing production consultants.

By commissioning this work and disseminating its findings, ARL seeks to better comprehend varying perspectives and to enhance broader, deeper understanding of the challenges and decisions faced by publishers and libraries as they navigate the transition that is underway. The report is intended to be of value well beyond the library community, serving publishers and others active in leading these transitions.




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