results - feedback on online journal use (Laura A. Sill) Stephen Clark 07 May 1998 17:55 UTC

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 7 May 1998 12:26:55 -0500
From: "Laura A. Sill" <Laura.A.Jenny.1@ND.EDU>
Subject: results - feedback on online journal use

Thank you to everyone who responded to my quick and informal survey on
online journal use.  A compilation of the results are below.

Laura Sill
University of Notre Dame
Question 1:  For online journals in the Engineering, Chemistry and
Mathematics fields, what are the presentation (i.e., non-content related)
characteristics you find most helpful and why?
***1. Easily browsed list of all issues online, separate from issues with
   only TOCs.  My users often have a specific reference, and need a
   quick and SIMPLE way to get to the correct article.  A simple issue
   list is much easier for our users to comprehend and work with than
   a search form which works differently at each journals' site.

2. Links embedded in references to the abstracts of those articles.
   Highwire Press is doing this with its medical journals.  The
   American Journal of Physiology is in a free trial period - check
   out any full-text article for examples:

3. Publisher organizes site to provide computable URLs for individual
   articles.  Our bibliographic database service can work with these
   publishers to provide links to individual articles at the citation
   level from a search result.  Highwire Press has done this as well -
   look at the URL for any full-text article, and you'll see the
   volume, issue, and page numbers embedded in the URL.  This makes it
   easier for our database provider.

4. Value-added features such as ability to take citation information
   in a form suitable for importing into bibliographic file management
   software programs such as End-Note or Reference Manager, or ability
   to register for automatic table-of-contents by e-mail.***

***All the journals that I am familar with are web journals in the areas of
Astronomy, Chemistry, Mathematics, and Physics.  The presentation is to
provide a replica of the print.  The most likely reason, to reproduce the
print, is the use of mathematical notation and the use of charts, graphs,
and photos in the originals that are difficult to handle via html.

So the differences of each journal are the navigation features that each
publisher/vendor provide prior to getting to the article.  One of the
earliest providers of web journals is the Institute of Physics (IOP).  The
IOP site has some nice features such as allowing ND users to select an id &
password so that they can access the journals from any networked computer
in the world; providing a virtual file cabinet with that id & password so
that the articles of interest follow the user; allowing the user to set up
a journal issue availability notification system; links to the INSPEC
database; and a site wide search engine.

Other publishers provide some of the services that IOP provides but not all
the services. The American Mathematical Society (AMS) when sending a email
notifying you of a new issue will include the table of contents.***

***Hypertext links within the document
Hypertext links to other documents including other articles, database
records, web sites, software, etc.
Interactive models
Unlimited length

Why? All of these allow you to enrich the transfer of information between
author and reader by allowing the author to encode more information into a
"document" and by allowing the reader more ways to interact with the

Question 2:  For online journals in fields outside of Engineering,
Chemistry and Mathematics, what are the presentation characteristics you
find most helpful and why?
***I like the use of frames.  The left frame has buttons to go to
particular sections of the journal.  The right frame includes brief
summaries of the articles.  I can do without significant graphics, e.g.
photos, on the first page.  Links to other sites and citations within the

***Basically the same as above. What will be linked, modeled etc. will be
different, and the way the features are integrated may vary. I'm not
suggesting that e-journals will be the same for all communities, but you
are lumping so many communities together and ignoring so many other
e-journal features like innovation in review, innovation in pricing,
innovations in deliverty etc. that I can't comment meaningfully within the
context you're presenting.***

Question 3:  What have you found to be the preferred format for delivery
(e.g., pdf, html, etc.) of online information and why?  By type of
information (e.g., the text of an article vs. illustrations, etc.), do you
have any further thoughts on delivery?
***I'm satisfied with most formats.  I do like to have an  option for
viewing an image.  Either a thumbnail or the option of a tiff for better
quality (see CRL/LAMP Brazil project for this approach).***

***HTML AND PDF are both important.  We find people want to see the article
on-screen as soon as possible, scroll a little to decide whether to print.
So HTML presentation is important.  Presentation by means of frames is
irritating, especially as many of our users still operate in little
640x480 worlds.  FOr a paper copy, though, PDF is much preferred.  We have
found little use of other formats like TeX or PostScript in medicine.***

***At this point pdf is the preferred format for delivery of journal articles
in Chemistry, Astronomy, Physics, and Mathematics.  The last three areas
also provide ps format and Math has a third format, dvi.

The format that I have experience with is pdf.  I do know that in
Astronomy, Math, and Physics patrons will use the ps or dvi formats but I
don't know anything about them.  I like pdf (and users seem to like pdf)
because it reproduces the original print better than a photocopy could do.
You can also save the pdf to your hard disk or afs space instead of placing
the copy in a file cabinet.

The index or table of contents in all areas mentioned above are in html.

Delivery is affected by equipment.  A slow clock speed in the CPU and/or
low RAM makes it very difficult to print an article.  For instance a 486
with 16MB RAM takes about 120 seconds per page to print a pdf document, a
Pentium 100 MHz with 32MB RAM takes about 90 seconds per page, a Pentium II
266 MHz with 64MB RAM takes about 15 seconds per page.  In the Mac world, a
Quadra 610 66Mhz with 24MB RAM takes about 90 seconds per page, and a G3
266Mhz with 64MB RAM takes about 10 seconds per page.  A slow response time
can really discourage a user from wanting to use the web journal.

In addition to the clock speed, a low resolution monitor makes a pdf
article almost impossible to read on the screen.  Again this discourages
the user from wanting to use a web journal.***

***Preferred by who? I'm a librarian. I read journals in my field and browse
some science journals, but I shouldn't be seen as a typical reader for
most science journals. You have to ask them. Sure librarian's have
opinions and some ground for professional judgement, but journals will
live and die by their readers, not by us.

However, for myself I prefer html because of the much greater flexibility
and capability for incorporating the features I suggested above.***

Question 4:  For those online journals that have incorporated multimedia in
their online versions (e.g., video clips, color graphics, etc.), have they
been successful?  If so, in what way?
***Sort of successful.  The only special thing we encounter is color
graphics.  Some users hate this because their browser and printer setup
turn these into black mud on printing -  a black & white photocopy of a
color photo from one of our library copiers is often better than what
they can print  out on their own cheapo inkjet.  Surprise - a $3000
machine makes a better image than a $300 one.

A very few journals have incorporated other more advanced multimedia
components, and they have not been terribly popular with our users.  There
is one gentleman who enjoys listening to symposia via streaming audio, but
most of our users want electronic journals to be pretty much like paper

***Journal of Biological Chemistry has color graphics and color photos.  The
success of JBC is because most people have really good color monitors and
the branches/departments do not have color copiers.  Color printers are
becoming more common so why have a color copier.***

***Again, how are you judging success and successful for whom? Economically
successful? Popular? High impact? A reader personally likes it?

I see Science Online as successful. However, Science is successful by just
about any measure so the online has a wonderful stature to build on and
is basically successful by definition not by implementation. For
most other e-journals it is way too early to start declaring success. Very
few are out there incorporating the features you suggest - especially the
majority of e-journals which are 1) versions of existing print journals
and 2)limiting themselves to pdf of exact page images which doesn't
support most of the features you suggest (only color so far).

I am distressed by how often we want to talk about neato features but want
to ignore the currently dominant (although hopefully transitionary) model
of e-publishing which is simple page images of existing paper
publications. Almost without exception the only journals that are realy
exploring enhanced functionality are new journals and thus they are
difficult to compare to the large body of existing, established journals.

What do we mean by an electronic journal? This is not a trivial question
at the moment. If the pfd of paper is an e-journal then we have to accept
that this form is dominant and perhaps not transitional. If pdf of paper
is not a "real" e-journal, then we have to acknowledge that e-journals
are at best a tiny in niche in sci tech publishing and that their success
has yet to be demonstrated (see the recent Harter article in JASIS for
confirmation of this assertion).***

***I don't see these journals in the social sciences, but there
certainly is more and more reason to include them now that the technology
is available.  Above all, the user should have the option of viewing
multimedia files.***

General comments:
*The one and only thing I want in a periodical's web page is a
decent, searchable archive.

*I would say look particularly closely at the print capabilities of the
online journals. My experience with JSTOR articles has shown me, paperless
society notwithstanding, users still want to be able to print from the
journals. This has implications for method of delivery, multimedia, etc. If
you cannot print reliably from various locations, platforms, etc, the
usefulness of the product is diminished.