Re: Disappearing microform titles (Peter Picerno) Marcia Tuttle 17 Sep 2001 12:28 UTC

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 14 Sep 2001 23:01:15 -0500
From: Peter Picerno <ppicerno@UTMEM.EDU>
Subject: Re: Disappearing microform titles (Albert Henderson)

Mr. Henderson,

I would respectfully suggest that in your use of such phrases as:

        ...When Congress cut research funding around 1969,
        payment of publishers' page charges was the first
        thing to go ...
        ... Universities are doing their best to dislodge the
        scholarly publishing industry ... the influence
        of associations on academic matters ...
        the importance of publications to individual faculty ...

you could be interpreted as expecting that academia be held accountable to
the publishing industry for something. I'm sure, however, that in your
experience and wisdom, you know that the scholarly publishing industry is a
service industry. It arose as a convenient mechanism for disseminating
information for the use of others and for expediting scholarly
communication. As such, the publishing industry has no place, right, or
privilege to have expectations or to make demands of academia -- the very
institution which the industry serves. It does have the right to make a
profit and to sustain its profit-making activity so long as its product is
of use to academia.
        The dictates of free trade and consumerism will be the determining factors
as to the continuation of commercial scholarly publication. For example, if
the products which the publishing industry markets are perceived to be of
poor quality, or to be of a value which is not consistent with their pricing
structures, they, like any other consumer items, will be discontinued by
their consumers. That would seem to imply that in the case of publications
which are so very much more expensive for institutional than for individual
subscriptions, that some of those publications might be among the first ones
to be very carefully scrutinized as to their value and their usefulness. It
is even possible that some enterprising libraries might go so far as to pay
departments or individuals in departments to subscribe as individuals rather
than to burden the library with an inordinately expensive institutional
        The fact is that we now have the technology to communicate more widely and
more quickly than ever before. This unprecedented facility of communication
means, perhaps, that scholarly communication will revert to its most ancient
form -- where the intellectual property remained in the purview and control
of its author or a sympathetic host such as an academic or university
publisher. There is no reason that an author -- or his or her host
institution -- cannot, for example, generate a website to publish and store
scholarly information or research. There is every possibility for such web
sites to be maintained in perpetuity, as in the manner of some of the recent
university-based journal ventures. Such information and communication can
even be peer-reviewed either before, or as a part of, the 'publication'
process, again reverting back to a 'purer' form of scholarly communication
(which suggests ongoing dialogue rather than static statement). It is not
inconceivable that scholars will find that they have, at their own
fingertips, the ability to communicate their research in a way which could
bypass the need for traditional journals and the traditional delays in
getting information accepted, printed, and distributed. Isn't that what
this, and many many other listservs, are doing? For example this debate,
which would take months or years of 'letters to the editor' in print form
can be carried out in mere days.
        With the immediacy and comprehensiveness of electronic forms of
communicaion, the prestige of a particular publication or title will quite
possibly become an irrelevancy as the primacy of information, research, or
scholarship becomes the important issue (as it should have been all along).
And where should such information reside? In academia, of course, where it
rightfully belongs. Perhaps once this model is more completely grasped and
accepted, academic libraries will become the generating hosts and the
repositories of the 'new' form of scholarly communication. This will
increase the status and importance of libraries and it will be found that
their purpose will have changed very little: only the tools and containers
will be different. But the important difference is that academia will once
again become the generator, supplier, communicator, and keeper of scholarly
communication and information which has been part of its role from its
medieval origin. There are many initiatives under way which indicate that
this model may be more fully realized in the not too distant future.
        With this in mind, then, returning to your above statements: you stated
that " ...When Congress cut research funding around 1969, payment of
publishers' page charges was the first
thing to go ...," but why should a scholar pay a per-page charge to a
publisher when it is possible to disseminate information through a more
effective medium? You state that "  ... Universities are doing their best to
dislodge the scholarly publishing industry ..." when, in fact, universities
may only be reclaiming what is their logical and 'rightful' place and duty
as the host for scholarly communication. Your allusion to "... the influence
of associations on academic matters ..." begs the question as to why an
academic association -- which is of necessity narcissistic and self-centered
in order to maintain its focus and purpose -- should have any influence over
the entirety of academia or over any body but that of its membership? Your
statement about "the importance of publications to individual faculty ..."
leads to the accepted assumption that publications -- in any form -- will
always be important to faculty. But why should a library -- which must serve
the breadth and depth of an entire academic community of thousands of
students and faculty -- be expected to pay thousands and thousands of
dollars for a publication which is of critical importance to a small
percentage of the members of its academic community when those same members
can purchase individual subscriptions at a fraction of the cost to a
        For a decade or so we were told repeatedly that the CD-ROM was a
transitional technology. That statement, it turned out, was true. It may
very well be that the scholarly journal, as we know it, is also a
transitional technology.

Peter V. Picerno
UT Memphis

(the ideas and opinions expressed here are mine and have nothing whatsoever
to do with any aspect of the institution at which I am employed)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 13 Sep 2001 18:02:13 -0400
From: Albert Henderson <chessNIC@COMPUSERVE.COM>
Subject: Re: Disappearing microform titles (David Goodman)

on Thu, 13 Sep 2001 David Goodman <dgoodman@PHOENIX.PRINCETON.EDU> claims:

> Such reservesd are also at least a minimal protection against bad economic
> times. Or would Al rather see the scholarly publishing industry collapse
> totally if we have a depression?

        Don't tell us that university managerss are hoarding
        dollars to protect us publishers and librarians!!?

        When Congress cut research funding around 1969,
        payment of publishers' page charges was the first
        thing to go. The growth of library spending --
        which had been keeping up with R&D -- was right
        behind it.

        Universities are doing their best to dislodge the
        scholarly publishing industry, tenure, the influence
        of associations on academic matters, shared governance,
        the importance of publications to individual faculty,
        and costly libraries and librarians.

        States that underwrite public universities generally
        assume the responsibility for reserves.

        Moreover, the Dept of Education statistics indicate
        that the surplus, as a percent of revenue, has grown
        over the last 30 years while the libraries share dwindled
        by about the same amount.

        Best wishes,

Albert Henderson