print journal / digital world

I’ve been thinking recently about how print journals adapt to the digital world. My mulling was kicked into gear by two specific examples, that of Critical Inquiry and of Shakespeare Quarterly (full disclosure: I am an Associate Editor of SQ, but I am not involved with the online Forum). Critical Inquiry‘s new website includes the usual information (what’s in the current issue, what’s forthcoming, information about submitting). But it also includes online features that extend the print journal substantially. There’s new content that appears only online, including the “web exclusives” made up of bundles of essays, On the New Arab Spring and The Wire, and the CI blog, In the Moment. There is also previously printed content made (temporarily, I assume) accessible online, such as the debate with Jacques Derrida on South Africa, or the articles by various featured authors.

Shakespeare Quarterly‘s online Forum is less slick, but strives for more conversation with its readers. There has been printed content that appeared for free in the Forum (a Lee Edelman essay and a book review). But the bulk of the content so far has extended on what has appeared in the print journal: a conversation with Edelman, a debate between reviewer and author, a roundtable conversation between contributors to an issue.

It seems to me that these models raise questions about how a journal differentiates between exclusively online content and print content, about what type of interaction the web might productively offer a journal’s readers, and about the distribution of chosen content through open-access publication. There are surely other possibilities and questions that are going to arise as we look forward. I don’t think that we can assume that print journals will necessarily (or, at the least, immediately) become digital-born publications. So what opportunities and pitfalls should we be aware of as we think as publishers, editors, authors, librarians, and readers of scholarly journals in terms of what the digital world might offer in combination with print publication?

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About Sarah Werner

I am the Undergraduate Program Director at the Folger Shakespeare Library and Associate Editor of Shakespeare Quarterly; I'm also in charge of the Library's research blog, The Collation. I write about early modern culture, book history, and cultures of reading on my own site, Wynken de Worde; I've spent a lot of time running an open peer review for a special SQ issue on Shakespeare and performance, and I'm the author of one book and the editor of another. Some of you know me as @wynkenhimself.

7 Responses to print journal / digital world

  1. This is almost EXACTLY the session I logged in to propose, so I’m glad to hear there’s someone else interested in similar issues! I spent last year working at the Journal of Asian Studies (which has a few online initiatives going, mostly in the realm of making some content available to non-subscribers) and the experience sparked a lot of questions. Do scholars think of online-only content as “less important/reputable/valuable” than print publications? Should book reviews be online only? How can we use online tools to extend and enhance the print journal’s role within the academic community? I’d love to discuss these issues with other THATCampers who want to brainstorm about how we can bring print journals into the digital world!

  2. Maura: fabulous–even if no one else is interested, we can find a corner and talk through some of this! Your questions are also up there with what I’ve been wondering about. And I think there are real labor issues, too, that might need to be considered, including who is in charge of online content and who puts in the time to maintain the site?

  3. Man, if scholars think online is less real or important they are in for a shock. Libraries have less and less in print in the way of journals. (It’s hard enough to afford any journals, let alone ones in more than one format – and if you’re expecting bound journals? uh, that’s not happening these days.)

    Most undergraduates have never seen a print journal in the wild.

    I do wonder, though, if online content is cited but it’s considered more ephemeral – what then?

  4. A clarification: I think what’s important here is not the format in which scholars read the material–yes, very few folks, undergrads or faculty, are reading journals in print–but the mechanism by which it is published. All of the journals mentioned are available through JSTOR, among other online collections, and most of them are probably primarily being discovered and read that way. But any content they publish only online, on their home websites, is not going to be found in JSTOR. Faculty are hardly clueless for recognizing that. And if that material is not being peer reviewed (through whatever process is being used), it’s certainly going to count for less in the eyes of the folks who do the counting.

  5. Profile photo of hthornton hthornton says:

    Very interested in this as we debate these issues at Library Journal all the time–much of our news content is web only and we struggle to figure out how to make it accessible long term. Also interested in the wider print/online questions as a librarian. I think many, including faculty, must be educated/persuaded that online only doesn’t necessarily mean non-peer reviewed, and should not automatically be forbidden as a resource to students. So yes, I’d like to participate in this program.

  6. Barbara says:

    Okay – I guess I am confused about the “born digital” part. It seems as if there’s a distinction here between “part of a series and its sequence clearly indicated as such” and “material that is outside the series sequence but carrying the same brand” – which is more about preservation and being encoded for recovery than about its having been distributed in print. Sorry if I’m being dense. It seems as if we are perpetuating some conventions of print (volumes, numbers, continuous pagination) that help people identify and seeking parts of series and extra bits that aren’t so designated are easily lost. It also Risks falling outside repackaging that aggregators do to make bundles of stuff In series available through libraries. That recoverability is awfully important and is more easily aided by old fashioned citations or DOIs than by unstable URLs.

  7. Barbara says:

    (sorry about the typos… Commenting using my phone with clumsy thumbs)

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