V971 14 November 1997

Internet Publications ?

Demetris I. Loizos
History Professor

Scholars of the Humanities usually publish the results of their research in Journals or monographs. In this way they reach the least possible audience which is composed of the very few specialists who are interested in their work. Actually, this is not because a lot of others, worldwide, are not interested but because high cost prevents the broadening of the market for specialized journals and monographs. Isn't, though, an obligation of the scholar to make his/her work available to the greatest possible number of interested persons worldwide? It is our belief that Internet publications can achieve this goal.

In a recent conference in the USA [see American Historical Association Perspectives, 35 (November 1997) : 3] it was revealed that specialized history monographs might not sell more than 200 copies and therefore presses refuse to publish them on the grounds of great financial losses. The main reason why the sales are so low is that libraries do not buy the same number of specialized monographs they used to purchase in the past because of limited budgets. The final result of this vicious circle is that young scholars do not see their work published.

A solution provided in the same conference was electronic publications which has a lot of advantages such as "accessibility, searchability, currency, researchability, interdisciplinarity, multimedia, linkability, and interactivity." But, as Clifford Lynch of the Coalition for Networked Information, pointed out "if the monograph is to be digitized it needs to be reconceptualized." It is true that nobody can read on a computer screen long texts and definitely it is very impractical to print a whole book in a regular printer. In the conference, the American mania with copyright was also raised as well as whether dissertations and monographs in electronic form would be free of charge to everybody or sold.

Definitely, these are questions that have to be considered carefully but, on the other hand, there are decisions that have to be made soon enough to avoid the exploitation of the electronic opportunities by the business world only. With the extremely low cost of internet publications scholars will soon find presses willing to publish their books electronically since, in this way, they would appeal to the world market and they will be definitely able to sell more that 200 copies. On the other hand the usually high cost of peer review, design etc. will disappear because as long as a monograph fulfills the basic scholarly prerequisites, it will be published electronically. The press will have very little to loose in terms of money and, most probably, to make a profit even with very few copies sold. Moreover, new software will soon facilitate electronic publications to the maximum.

We firmly believe, therefore, that electronic publications will replace at least some of the printed ones in the near future and most probably the Journals and short monographs. As a result, the cost of buying serials for both libraries and individuals will go down sharply and knowledge will be made available to the world community at an extremely low cost. Let Anistoriton be our proof.

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