LINGUIST List 7.208

Thu Feb 8 1996

Disc: Journal Costs

Editor for this issue: T. Daniel Seely <>


  1. Eric Adolphson Caterpillar, Re: 7.198, Disc: Journal costs
  2. Shuly Wintner, Re: journal costs

Message 1: Re: 7.198, Disc: Journal costs

Date: Wed, 07 Feb 1996 16:55:36 EST
From: Eric Adolphson Caterpillar <eacatGOTHAM.MT.CS.CMU.EDU>
Subject: Re: 7.198, Disc: Journal costs

What you say is largely true; at least for today. I work in the technical
information department of a fortune 500 company. We are being forced away
from paper simply because of the volume. Yet, we also fear the shifts in 
format that seem to occur yearly. We also fear the fragility of electronic
media when we are required to keep copies of documents for fifty years or more.
 So, what is coming that allows for us to move to the new "electronic age"
of information? One is a markup language called SGML. It is content driven 
and is independent of the software environment. It is standard, and can be used
 to "markup" any data. 

Media is also improving. I think, given the poor quality of the paper these 
days, that a dat tape may outlast a publication on paper. Well, time will tell.

Eric Adolphson
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Message 2: Re: journal costs

Date: Thu, 08 Feb 1996 12:08:22 +0200
From: Shuly Wintner <>
Subject: Re: journal costs
In LINGUIST List: Vol-7-198. Wed Feb 7 1996, (Alan Dench) has written:

> While there are many obvious advantages to electronic publishing,
> and some very attractive multi-media options in presenting language
> material (grammars, dictionaries etc.) on CD-Rom, there are,
> I believe a few flies in the ointment.

There are. But not the ones you have indicated.

> If I publish an article today,
> electronically, can I guarantee that that article will be
> accessible to a reader in 50 years time? Even if someone printed
> it out by fax or on laser printer, these media degrade pretty quickly.

I can actually envision the tribe's old, sitting next to the fire,
arguing against the newly invented stone carving medium. Stories
have always been transferred from father to son, they would say, and
this method has proved useful and efficient. Rocks degrade pretty

> If I choose to publish my grammar of an obscure language on
> paper, and if I am lucky enough to find a publisher, it may
> end up costing any prospective buyer an arm and a leg - the
> print run will be quite small. But I can reasonably expect
> the volume to survive a couple of hundred years, if looked
> after reasonably well.

Stones last forever, their descendants would say, if looked after
reasonably well. Paper won't. Paper is sensitive to fire, water,
winds, wild animals.

> If I publish my grammar on CD-Rom, I can more or less guarantee
> that it won't last more than 20 years. Of course, I have no real
> guarantee that even if it did last a little longer, the technology
> for reading it would still be around - I've had enough trouble
> converting my files from one program to another, and one tape/disk
> format to another over the past 15 years to wonder a bit about this.

Stick to stone, they would suggest. Yesterday Papyrus, today paper,
tomorrow - who knows?

> Electronic media are not long lived. If we have any belief that
> the work we do today might be useful to future generations, in
> its original published form - not just in the extent to which it
> informs the field, and not allowing for the field to occasionally
> retrace its steps - then publication on paper is hard to beat.
> (Tablets of stone are a little more impractical).
> Paper might be expensive, but if you consider that part of what
> you are paying for is longevity, the cost is a bit easier to swallow.

I guess the point is clear. Electronic media are not long lived,
because they've only been here for a short time. But they're here to
stay. They are cheaper, much cheaper. They take up much less space,
and thus enhance the capacity of libraries dramatically. (Actually, my
department's library is out of storing space and practically every
newly received book implies that an old one is shredded.) They are
widely accessible - it takes a few minutes to transfer a file, it
takes weeks for inter-library loans to work. Finally, they are highly
reliable: the organization of the electrons on a magnetic medium, be
it a tape, a disk or a CD, is unlikely to change in the future.

Shuly Wintner
Computer Science shulytechunix.bitnet
Technion, Israel Institute of Technology	 tel: +972-4-8294315
Haifa 32000, Israel fax: +972-4-8294353
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