December 06, 2007

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


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 Johnson and Judy Luther. The report examines the issues associated with the migration from dual-format publishing (paper and electronic) to electronic-only journals.

Publishers and libraries are in an extended transition zone between print-only and e-only journals. Both parties are struggling with the demands and costs of dual-format publications. 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 overcome before the transformation to e-only publication is completed. The ARL study seeks to create a better understanding of the transition process, both for librarians and publishers. Neither publishers nor librarians independently control the process. The need to coordinate their activities greatly increases the complexity of the transition.

The report considers the factors driving the push toward electronic-only publishing as well as the barriers that are slowing change. The work is based largely on interviews conducted in 2007 with two dozen academic librarians and journal publishers. The authors provide an assessment of likely change in the near term and recommend strategic areas of focus for further work to enable change.

By commissioning this work and disseminating its findings, ARL seeks to enhance broader, deeper understanding of the challenges and decisions faced by publishers and libraries as they navigate the transition taking place.

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is a nonprofit organization of 123 research libraries in North America. Its mission is to influence the changing environment of scholarly communication and the public policies that affect research libraries and the diverse communities they serve.

Contributed by Association of Research Libraries

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