The Chemical Educator, Vol. 6, No. 1, S1430-4171(01)01457-2, 10.1007/s00897010457a © 2001 Springer-Verlag New York, Inc.
Electronic Expectations: Science Journals on the Web. By Tony Stankus. Haworth Press: New York, London, Oxford; 1999. 204 pp 15.2 x 21.2 cm. $59.95, hardbound; $24.95, softcover. ISBN 0-7890-0846-7.For U.S. & Canada, Tel.: (800)-HAWORTH; Fax: (800) 895-0582; Outside U.S. & Canada, Tel.: (607) 722-5857; Fax: (607) 771-0012. E-mail: email@example.com. Avail. URL: http://www. haworthpressinc.com.
Tony Stankus, who received his MLS degree from the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Library and Information Studies in 1975 and has been Adjunct Professor at URI since 1982 and Science Librarian at the College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Massachusetts since 1974, is a well-known authority on sci-tech libraries. He is the author of more than sixty articles and nine books on the subject (see, e.g., G. B. Kauffman, Journal of Chemical Education 1992, 69, A188 for a review of his Biographies of Scientists for Sci-Tech Libraries: Adding Faces to the Facts (Haworth, 1992)). His latest book is a collected series of six tutorial reviews of the literature, each accompanied by useful bibliographies related to the ever-expanding world of electronic journals that can be accessed through the Internet. It is a “separate,” a serials librarianship term for a special issue simultaneously published as a special journal issue or double issue (in this case, Science & Technology Libraries, Volume 18, Nos. 2/3 (1999)) as well as a “separate” hardbound monograph.
In a 4-page introduction Stankus states that the reviews “were based on some traditional literature searching techniques, a good deal of web surfing, and a reformulation of the discovered material in the light of two overriding themes that came to the fore early on in this process.” First, although a survey of librarianship on Internet science journals is sorely needed, it does not provide sufficient perspective on a development involving many other players and factors. Second, although the advent of electronic journals is “revolutionary” to some extent, it will not “dramatically change or improve everything about science in libraries.”
Of course, Stankus writes from the perspective of a science librarian, and the reviews in this volume will be useful not only for science librarians, those in training and those seeking to get up to speed, so-to-speak, but they will also be valuable for “scientific authors, publishers, aggregators, and Internet managers.” In the first review, “The Key Trends Emerging in the First Decade of Electronic Journals in the Sciences” (16 pp), he recognizes five trends:
1.Electronic journals will not replace print journals any time soon; subscription prices are the biggest threats to print subscriptions.
2.In the long run, electronic journals will not be substantially cheaper than print. Mergers and partnerships among publishers will increase in order to spread technology costs, maintain cash flow, and reduce the risks of electronic publishing systems.
3.Libraries and librarians will remain important because of buying power, technical complications, and lack of resolution to electronic archiving that favors sustaining print archives.
4.Libraries are not likely to become successful electronic publishers if they keep trying to change heavily published scientists into publishing executives.
5.Middlemen will still be able to make money by doing more than their traditional job descriptions might suggest.
The trends illustrate an overall trend in the electronic-world—that of change and the redefinition of functions and roles for all businesses connected to the Internet and the virtual world.
In the second review, “A Review of the Print Journal System in the Sciences, with Prospects for Improvement in Deficiencies and Costs Through Electronic Publishing: Practices and Attitudes of Publishers and Printers, Librarians, and Scientific Authors” (21 pp), Stankus explains the advantages and disadvantages of print journal publications. He illustrates the costs of subscription, maintenance, replacement of lost or damaged issues, and the binding of journals. In so doing, he cogently argues for a much-needed, electronic-based scientific journal publication by showing the major shortcomings of print journals. One such drawback, especially prevalent today, is the issue of the conservation of forest products and the use of nontoxic inks and other compounds. An electronic publication requires no paper or ink. In one stroke, two potentially serious problems are eliminated.
In the third review, “The Business and Technological Warfare Affecting the Internet and Electronic Journals: Terminology of Major Hardware and Software Components and Competing Strategies of Major Players” (32 pp), Stankus deals with key e-journal terminology and gives a basic explanation of the hardware and software necessary for utilizing e-journal publications. At the end of the review he considers ongoing issues of importance to the future of electronic publications and their library usage. The level of explanation allows an individual with limited computer exposure to gain valuable understanding of the computer world and how it pertains to the publishing and transmission of information. He explains topics such as Script and Adobe pdf formats, HTML and Java applets, and many others. He even includes a brief history of the two dominant Internet browsers—Netscape Navigator/Communicator and Microsoft Internet Explorer.
Stankus explains the origins of the bitter rivalries between Microsoft and many other software manufactures—for all intents and purposes, Microsoft vs. everyone else. This is now especially pertinent after the recent antitrust court ruling against Microsoft that has left many wondering how this concerns them as computer users. Libraries will also be affected by this problem because many use Microsoft operating systems in their computers. As Stankus explains, a new platform is introduced about every 12 to 18 months, which coincides with the introduction of new microprocessor architecture. Incidentally, in 2000 alone, Microsoft unveiled two new operating systems. Such frequent upgrading would be cost-prohibitive for most libraries, considering the cost of the new hardware, cost of the software required for each workstation, and cost for the installation.
In the fourth review, “Electronic Journal Concerns and the Strategies of Science Publishers” (22 pp), Stankus deals with the major sources of conflict that have arisen between those within the library structure and the publishers. The primary source of these conflicts is undoubtedly budgetary constraints and cutbacks. During the 1980s many universities and library systems spent large amounts on computer infrastructure and networks. These expenditures encroached upon available funds that would have been spent on journal subscriptions and books. This problem resulted in an alliance between the scientist and the journal or society within his or her particular specific discipline. In this age of reduction in journal subscriptions, this alliance is a natural one because the scientist is apt to feel more support from his or her journal or society than from the library at his or her institution.
Stankus also explains other alliances that have formed in the publishing arena. He begins by explaining the three main publishing groups—for-profit, nonprofit, and university presses. With a few notable exceptions, university presses have had a difficult time competing with for-profit and nonprofit publishers. University presses have also been slow to form collaborative partnerships with the first two types of publishers. However, for the survival of both groups, for-profit and nonprofit publishers have begun to cooperate on some ventures, specifically into the World Wide Web via electronic journal publications. Stankus contrasts the European system of journal publication (primarily by for-profit publishers with very little university press activity) with the American system. One solution toward which some publishers are moving is that of eliminating the middleman. By publishing an e-journal, many middlemen, such as delivery services, aggregators, and subscription services, can be bypassed.
In the fifth review, “Electronic Journal Concerns and Strategies for Aggregators: Subscription Services, Indexing/Abstracting Services, and Electronic Bibliographic Utilities” (14 pp), Stankus examines the strategies that are being pursued to remain competitive in the changing publication landscape. He illustrates the precarious state of these services by contrasting the secure status of subscription services in the print world with their uncertain futures in the new paradigm of electronic journals sold directly to the user. This type of move has and will continue to affect all the intermediaries between publisher and user. Ultimately, publishers will need to adapt to the changes and to invent new services to provide or they will not have a service to sell.
The last review, “The Best Original Scientific Research, Review, Methods and Symposia Journals with Their Current Web Addresses Ranked Within Their Primary Subject Category” (72 pp, the volume’s longest section, coauthored with Jeanne Marie Clavin and Richard Joslin) is an exhaustive compendium that is perhaps the most useful part of the book. In the vast maze of the WWW, this type of “roadmap” could be a powerful tool for the researcher looking for a journal article or reference on a particular subject. Furthermore, on many webpages the cross-linking with other sites provides a huge potential source of new information as well as answers to existing questions.
Stankus explains many of the forces at work today that are affecting libraries and librarians. The last two decades have brought about, via the computer revolution, a change in paradigm for the librarian and library science. With the advent of online e-journals, the ever-increasing number of publications, and with limited and often decreasing funds, librarians are being forced to make difficult choices. Understanding the forces at work can provide solutions to fit a specific situation. The local junior college library and the large university library often have very different problems, but their causes may possibly be identical.
The volume works well as a sourcebook or roadmap to many of the scientific sites on the WWW. Stankus’ exhaustive bibliographic sections at the end of each chapter and the detailed index (22 double-column pages) are also very useful reference tools. These two features alone make the book invaluable. In scientific work any tool that can reduce the time required for research is a desideratum, and Electronic Expectations: Science Journals on the Web amply fulfills this purpose.