LINGUIST List 12.1494

Tue Jun 5 2001

Disc: Ethics of Web-based vs Paper Publications

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>


  1. Carsten Otto, Disc: Ethics of Web-based vs Paper Publications

Message 1: Disc: Ethics of Web-based vs Paper Publications

Date: Tue, 05 Jun 2001 09:27:18 +0200
From: Carsten Otto <>
Subject: Disc: Ethics of Web-based vs Paper Publications

Dear List members,

some thoughts on what Dave Odden (12.1466) said:

>Web-publication can have the effect of rendering papers invisible to those
>in developing countries. It is fortunate that you have high-speed web access
>(not to mention a computer), something that many of my colleagues in Africa
>cannot take for granted. 

I don't know what the situation is like in Africa and exactly what
part of this huge continent you are referring to. But I know that even
in the remote parts of Western Sahara, e.g. in the refugees camp on
the Algerian part of the Desert (or at the offices of Frente Polisario
in Tindouf) people have access to computers and the internet, if the
telephone lines are working! So I would guess, that it is indeed
easier to get access to web-based publications than it is to get a
print copy of e.g. W. Labov's Sociolinguistic Patterns in Tindouf. I
agree that you cannot take a computer or a working telephone line for
granted, but you neither can take it for granted to find a well
stocked library or a book store in the desert.

>Additionally, printed articles are "platform
>independent", whereas the hassles that face even us in North American
>universities in trying to deal with postscript, PDF, Latex, and whatever,
>can be enormous. The simple problem of fonts and the Mac/PC divide is
>evidence to me that current web technology and practice is not satisfactory
>as a sole mode of publishing. 

Right, the interchangeability of files across platforms is an issue to
work on. But one should keep in mind that we are working for maybe
more or less ten years with computer based publications and the
exchange of files via the net and with the development of formats such
as PDF we move one step ahead, don't we?

Another aspect: web-publications are an easier option for young
scholars to publish their work then are print-publications as you can
simply publish it yourself with some basic html-knowledge or even
without this knowledge (e.g. on geocities).

>Web-publication, *when it replaces print publication*, simply changes the
>way in which information becomes unavailable. Having both formats is better
>than just one.

I totally agree.

>Theft of digital material by copying is
>just as possible as theft of analog (printed) material.

You are right, but I think copying digital material is much easier as
you simply can "copy and paste" it, even without moving yourself from
the desk.


Carsten Otto

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