The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 26, Number 3
Nov 2002


Access Unlimited

There has been a remarkable explosion of large digital projects to provide scholarly readers with an infinite amount of high-quality reading material via the Internet.

1. CrossRef. At the beginning of 2000, the world's leading scholarly publishers joined to form the nonprofit, independent organization, Publishers International Linking Association, Inc. (PILA), which operates CrossRef. [This announcement is taken from PILA's website, <http://www.crossref.org/01company/16fastfacts.html>.] The Board of Directors comprises representatives from AAAS (Science), AIP, ACM, APA, Blackwell Publishers, Elsevier Science, IEEE, Kluwer, Nature, OUP, SAGE, Springer, and Wiley.

CrossRef's general purpose is to promote the development and cooperative use of new and innovative technologies to speed and facilitate scholarly research. The specific CrossRef mission is to be the citation linking backbone for all scholarly information in electronic form. [It] functions as a sort of digital switchboard. It holds no full text content, but rather effects linkages through Digital Object Identifiers (DOI), which are tagged to article metadata supplied by the participating publishers. The end result is an efficient, scalable linking system through which a researcher can click on a reference citation in a journal and access the cited article.

2. The European Union. The November 2002 issue of American Libraries published, in its "News Fronts" column, the following announcement:

"A group of European universities and publishers announced September 17 the creation of Figaro, a network that will provide e-publishing support to the European academic community. The network will investigate new business models of scholarly publishing and stimulate open access to the publications it distributes online, making scholarly publishing faster, cheaper, and simpler."

3. The National Library of the Netherlands followed up its preservation arrangement with Elsevier (American Libraries, Oct., p. 87) with a September 2002 agreement with OCLC and OCLC PICA to jointly operate a center to digitize and preserve historically valuable European library collections. The new center, Strata Preservation, will focus on microfilming and digitizing vulnerable and unique collections throughout Europe.

Commentary:

Walt Crawford's comments on this phenomenon appear on p. 65 of the same issue of American Libraries. He describes and analyzes the problem of access to scholarly articles in scientific, technical and medical (STM) fields—or "what's commonly called the serials crisis." With the number of scholarly journals growing rapidly, and some costing more than $10,000 a year, he says it's a big-money issue, and it's been with us for at least decades.

But won't online journals reduce costs? Crawford says that those who argued that they would do that, back in the early 1990s, "confused costs with prices, trivialized online costs, and underestimated the cleverness of the big international journal publishers." He also can't see scholars abandoning print journals.

But Crawford views favorably—or at least dispassionately—certain recent developments, including Princeton's deliberate abandonment of print subscriptions in certain sensible cases; an extension of the practice of maintaining free university-based archives as primary means of access; and Free Online Scholarship (FOS), a system with open archives and online journals with author fees (http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/fos/).

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