Re: Electronic Journals Stevan Harnad 25 Nov 1992 13:52 UTC

> Date:         Thu, 19 Nov 1992 16:25:00 CST
> Sender: A Loose Association of Electronic Discussion Groups and
>         Electronic <ARACHNET@UOTTAWA.BitNet>
> From: Anthony Aristar <e311aa@TAMUTS.TAMU.EDU>
> Subject:      Electronic Journals
> We're thinking of starting an electronic journal for linguistics here,
> but we're unsure of the guidelines applicable here.  I gather
> that it's perfectly appropriate to charge a subscription fee, but
> is it also appropriate to accept advertising from commercial sources
> on such a journal?  Does anyone have any guidelines or suggestions
> about how such a journal should operate?
> The main question we have is whether such journals are allowed to post
> advertisements from publishers, as hard-copy journals do.  Advertising
> seems to be forbidden in other uses of the network, so there seems to
> be a conflict here.  Yet such advertising is probably
> the only reliable source of funding for academic publications.

I know of no guidelines but I would offer the following suggestions:

(1) It's certainly possible to charge a subscription fee, but I think
it's premature (perhaps it will always remain premature): The real
costs of electronic journal publication are relatively small, compared
to those for a paper journal, and I think it is in the interest of
promoting this embryonic new medium to recover any costs by means other
than subscription charges, at least for now. (PSYCOLOQUY is subsidized
by the American Psychological Association, a scholarly society thereby
promoting a new form of scholarly communication and publication. The
current annual cost, if it were passed on to the current
readership/subscribership of 20,000 would amount to 50 cents per
reader. Surely there is a learned society or instutition that will pick
up the costs in your discipline, at least initially.)

(2) I also think a price tag is likely to kill off the potential
readership pre-emptively at this early stage when the impact and value
of the medium has not yet been demonstrated and people have more
questions about it than confidence in it. This was, I think, the
experience of the Neuro-Anthropology Newsletter when it tried to start
charging. The AAAS/OCLC On-Line Journal of Clinical Trials is charging
(and it will be interesting to see the outcome of that experiment), but
they have invested heavily in offering expensive paper-like features to
their journal. Do you intend to do so as well?

(3) I'm not entirely clear on Internet, Bitnet and Usenet rules about
advertising. Some limited kinds seem to be tolerated, but that too is a
route I would discourage you from taking, again partly because it is
premature (how many eyeballs do you think you can promise to potential
advertisers at this point?) and partly because it may well violate the
rules of the Net on which all these projects are piggy-backing gratis.

In sum, I would suggest: Assess your real costs, keep them minimal
(don't bother with inessential paper-like frills) and seek subsidy to
cover them, rather than charging for subscription or including ads.
Apart from approaching government and private granting agencies,
learned societies, universities, libraries or other scholarly
institutions and organizations, you might also consider "page" charges
for your contributors to cover your real costs (which, I repeat, will
not be that great). Subscribe also to vpiej-l@vtvm1.bitnet and
serialst@uvmvm.bitnet, which are more active than arachnet. (I've
cross-posted this to them.)

Stevan Harnad
Editor, Behavioral & Brain Sciences, PSYCOLOQUY

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