LINGUIST List 12.1539

Tue Jun 12 2001

Disc: Last Post/Web-based vs Paper Publications

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>


  1. Nancy Frishberg, Ethics of Web-based vs Paper Publications

Message 1: Ethics of Web-based vs Paper Publications

Date: Sat, 9 Jun 2001 08:31:00 -0800
From: Nancy Frishberg <>
Subject: Ethics of Web-based vs Paper Publications

Jumping into this discussion late (perhaps too late!) -

I'll observe that not all of the arguments here are about ethics (as 
in the Subject line). Many points have been made about pragmatic 
concerns with web-based vs. paper publication. I suspect my comments 
will be more on the pragmatic side.

Much of the argument of whether it's a good idea to publish on the 
web vs. in paper is mooted by the existence of imprints of scholarly 
journals on the web. Here I focus on refereed, scholarly publishing, 
rather than individual publication. Linguistics (as humanities or 
social science) can choose to be slower to the game, but the fields 
of biology, medicine and related technologies by some arguments 
crucially depend on most recent publication both for individual 
scholarly advancement and importantly for the rest of the field to 
use the scientific results.

Are you aware of High Wire Press ( 
High Wire has been publishing scholarly work in the biological (and 
related) disciplines online for the past 6 years; among the 
participating journals are the most prestigious names in theses 
disciplines. There are some important dimensions to this publication 
which are relevant to this current discussion.

 * The business model for different journals may differ - some 
journals allow access to all articles to all subscribers; some 
journals give access to more or different materials to subscribers 
from what's available to print readers; and so on.

 * This press (in the most abstract sense of the term) exists to 
distribute knowledge very freely and widely. To that end they do not 
handcode the HTML, but rather produce and distribute several tens of 
thousands of "pages" per week using automatic tools. They formed in 
order to compete with the for-profit presses publishing some journals 
at increasingly expensive prices.

 * Keep in mind that High Wire started in the Stanford University 
Library: library rates for journals have been more expensive than 
individual subscriber rates for many years, and have gone up even 
faster than individual rates. Among the problems that High Wire is 
trying to solve is how to use the library's acquisition best for the 
whole campus's benefit.

 * The agreement with High Wire (as I understand it) is that the 
online versions of articles (plus reviews, notes, etc.) are linked, 
so that whether I am a subscriber to the New England Journal of 
Medicine or American Journal of Physiology-Gastrointestinal and Liver 
Physiology (substitute your favorite title), I'll be able to view all 
the articles linked to any specific article (by the references, 
authors, key search words, etc.).

 * They are run by both librarians and computer scientists, with a 
strong feedback loop from the publishing arms of the large and small 
professional societies.

 * They are experimenting with LOCKSS (Lots Of Copies Keep Stuff 
Safe) a distributed archiving system for 
digital materials.

 * In linguistics, I expect that we'll want our data to be available 
as well as our analyses, which means not only text information, but 
also audio and video recordings.

For scholarly works in the digital libraries arena, interested 
readers may look at the Coalition for Networked Information 

For more on issues of archiving a rapidly changing web, look at the 
Internet Archive, especially their recent 
conference (mid-March, 2001) (if that's recent!).

Adam Powell of the Freedom Forum frequently speaks about the cultural 
(economic, social) differences between the US (and Western Europe) on 
the one hand and Africa, South American and parts of Asia in our 
(expectations about) access to computers, digital technology and 
other forms of communication, emphasizing that the single 
user/privately owned computer is not necessarily an indicator of how 
many people are using the digital medium for communicating.

And, under the heading of full disclosure: I learned much of this 
information as a friend and colleague of various employees of 
organizations mentioned above, and as a participant in conferences 
and work related to higher education and digital media (in my 
previous role as Executive Director of New Media Centers). I have 
recently joined Sun Microsystems which is a sponsor of some of the 
work I mention.

Nancy Frishberg +1 650.556.1948
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