Postmodern society is characterized by information overload. In the scientific and academic sector alone there are more than 100,000 journals and 80,000 new books published each year, also a vast number of electronic documents. There are about 170 million hosts on the WWW, with an estimated 500 million sites. The number of serious scientific documents published solely in an electronic form is increasing constantly. It is becoming more difficult to identify relevant information and documents, so there is a need for a unique and permanent identifier for electronic documents. Although it is possible to identify print products unambiguously according to a uniform world‐wide standard (ISBN, ISSN), this is not yet the case for electronic documents. At the moment, the internet address (URL) is frequently used to cite and retrieve the documents. However, URLs may change and the publications then frequently simply disappear. Clear and permanent identification systems are therefore necessary so that online publications can be cited, retrieved and used. Libraries in particular are very interested in a unique and permanent identifier for electronic documents. Two different systems, the uniform resource name (URN) and the digital object identifier (DOI), are presented as examples of ways in which electronic publications can be identified.
Ball, R. and Plott, C. (2004), "Identifying online publications – how to find a needle in a haystack
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