Last one decade has witnessed a great boom in scholarly electronic journals which, in addition to making great impact, has generated enormous debate among researchers and information professionals. In underdeveloped and developing countries its viability, with the existing infrastructure and pricing, has been viewed with great apprehension. Many ask whether e-publications be operated at much lower costs than print journals, and at the same time provide all the benefits of p-jls. Lots of studies obviously come from developed countries but still do not provide a total and convincing solution to the problems expressed by readers and the library professionals.
Now it is evident that scholars universally agree that journals will have to be available in digital formats. What is still not clear is whether they can be much less expensive than print journals. Even though the electronic format can save at least 30 percent of the costs, saved on printing and mailing of paper versions, the saving may get offset with the extra recurring expenses which the publishers have to incur in maintaining the system used for storing the e-jls and for providing uninterrupted service on the net. An electronic journal will have software and hardware costs of some kind in addition to the editorial cost.
In recent decades the price of print journals, especially scientific journals, has continued to rise beyond affordable limit and thus has prompted the librarians to look for an alternative mainly 'Free electronic journals'. In addition to this, the time required for publishing an article, from the time of its submission to its final appearance in the p-jls which would be approximately 3-4 years, has also prompted the authors to look for an alternative source.
Most of these like print also have editorial board, reviewers and so forth. To most of us it is some thing similar to the print except it being different in format.
E-jls have almost all the characteristics of the print journals and would be available either online or offline or both. Michael Strangelove has provided one of the clearest definitions, saying an e-journals attempts " to emulate the characteristics of their print counterparts through organization, periodicity and topical focus" (Strangelove 1993,). Like print, they also have "the intervention of editors, reviewers, and so forth."
Before any library shift from p-jls to e-jls the fundamental questions before them would be why and how. Next comes the financial implications and the infrastructure requirements such as hardware, software, etc. Lots of studies and surveys have been conducted in the area which would justify the need for e-jls.
Most probably the survey conducted by Prof. Heting Chu, Palmer School of library & Information Science, would explain the need for e-jls. The survey conducted by him in the year 1999, which included as many as 95 academic libraries in US, would justify the need.
As per the survey main reasons, based on the ranking from the response, for Adopting E-Journals are:Allow remote access (98%)
Ninety eight percent of the participants felt remote access as the main reason for opting e-jls. In addition to the above mentioned reasons revealed by his survey the few other reasons would be:
The reasons for not being popular can once again be drawn from the survey conducted by Prof.Heting Chu.
One main technological barrier in a country like India, where IT is gaining ground, would be the bandwidth. Libraries already having the necessary infrastructure may not prefer e-jls as there is very little or marginal difference in the subscription cost. Electronic journals are normally priced along similar lines to their printed counterparts, or even tied to the print subscription.
There is a fear that, if libraries opt for e-jls for few years and later discontinue subscription they may land in such a situation where in the access even for corresponding years may be withdrawn by the publishers.
On the contrary in case of p-jls, at the end of the subscription year the library will have corresponding number of issues/volumes as asset in their holdings.
Certain publishers may not provide unlimited downloading or printing option. Pay per view systems are also proposed but could carry prohibitive prices.
In an informal survey conducted at IGIDR few readers prefered to have both because e-jls may not be the perfect substitutes for p-jls.
Few members wanted the library staff to educate them about the restrictions pertaining to number of printouts, downloads, transmission over e-mail, and so on.
Some of them felt that it is much worse for the eyes to keep reading from the monitor vis-a-vis reading from a book.
All most all of them felt that the readers/institution would incur enarmous printing cost which would be invariably a laser copy.
Many E-jls are available as offline products, i.e on CD/DVD. Therefore in such case certain barriers such as internet connectivity and bandwidth do not concern. However, majority of the journals, both free and paid, are available on-line with downloading facility. Based on the availability and pricing e-jls may be categorized as follows :
The online access to journals are provided by the publishers or through their aggregators and the access policy varies from publisher to publisher. The access could be through a password or could be through IP address. Some time a small programme, which locates on the workstation, may also be needed for the access.
Even the e-jls available on CD will have their own retrieval software. Libraries having online access to e-jls are suggested to link such journals through their homepage so that the individual user need not remember addresses of all the sites. IGIDR library provides link to about 100 journals, both subscribed and free, in economics and related areas. All the subscribed journals are available to the members in IGIDR domain, where as the journal in public domain can be accessed from any other webserver outside IGIDR domain.
A number of service providers are coming out with a new policy, where the Pay-per-view options allow users to seek articles and pay on credit card or through the previously opened account. Publishers are introducing this type of service with an assumption that there will be no shortfall in their revenue. Some are even optimistic of increase in the revenue. There could be few possibilities:
As of now it is difficult to predict impact of per-view-policy on the revenue. To prevent any negative impact of per-view-policy on the revenue, in the mutual interest both the trade and libraries, the publishers may follow the 'MOVING-WALL' concept of JSTOR and give access to journals only after two to three years either directly or through an aggregator. In scientific research the currency of the literature matters more and therefore publishers are suggested to have a different pricing policy for the latest articles and for the articles from the back issues.
According to Sharon Cline McKay ( 1999) " Perhaps all electronic articles will be sold individually in the future, with users thereby exercising greater control over selection decisions than library professionals. Publishing companies that believe strongly in the concept of an issue being the logical unit of publication, as well as those who fear degradation of their revenue, will resist individual article sales."
Following are the publishers offering on-line journals.
Certain publishers also permit certain aggregators to mount the data/fulltext at the respective site in addition to having the data/fulltext on their own site.
There many publishers permitting libraries to download articles and to access these from LAN. In such case the librarians will have a challenging job of naming the files, storing and retrieval. IGIDR has made some experiments in developing in-house collection of e- articles and retrieving them using WINISIS, WWWISIS and ISEARCH. No extra investment is involved as these softwares are available in public domain. While ISEARCH can be used only with a CGI the other two software. WINISIS and WWWISIS are easy to implement. The former does not need any CGI, where as in the later case CGI is provided by the developer. However, the user has to develop the HTML front end.
Database structure is similar to any other bibliographic database developed on CDS/ISIS but with two additional fields namely 'DOCUMENT TYPE' AND 'PATH'. THE FIELD 'DOCUMENT TYPE' has two sub-fields. The first sub-field is for the type of the material, which in case of journal article will be 'TEXT' and the other sub-field is for the actual electronic format, which in most of the cases will be 'PDF'. The other field 'PATH' directs the software to access the actual text file in whatever format stored elsewhere.
For all the fields standard CCF tags have been used, where as the field 600 has been used for the link (path)
In a digital library there will be various type of files such as text, audio, video, image, animation and so forth. The articles are considered as text and therefore while naming a text file the prefix T is has been used followed by seven digit number, as DOS will accept only eight characters for a file. The extension would be .pdf, .htm, .doc and so on. The users of CDS/ISIS are well aware of the fact that each time a new record is created a MFN ( master File number ) is assigned by the system. Same number is assigned to the text file so that there will be no duplication in the file name. For example, while creating a bibliographic record for an article if MFN assigned is one, then the corresponding text file in PDF format will be given the name T0000001.PDF.
In case of print journal, issues received under that subscription belong to the library forever. What is not clear is, how long the access for e-jls are provided by the publishers. If subscription is not renewed for next year then what will happen to the earlier volumes for which one had paid subscription ? Do publishers give such issues on CD-ROM ?. The fate of e-jls will be a big question if a publisher goes out of business.
Sharon Cline McKay feels that " These questions only scratch the surface of the intricately complicated issues of archiving and perpetual access. Although no clear resolution of the problems has emerged, various librarians, publishers, and aggregators are working on reaching agreements that will provide solutions ". He also emphasizes that " all rights and permissions should be spelled out clearly in a document provided by each publishers".
E-jls being relatively a new trend in the information world has generated lot of debate over its access, storage, preservation, and copyright. It is still evolving and only the time will tell us what shape it would take. Its further development and issues surrounding it can be resolved with collaborative efforts of librarians, researchers and the publishers.