E‐Serials: Publishers, Libraries, Users and Standards

Valerie J. Nurcombe (Information Services Manager, ISM, Lichfield)

Library Review

ISSN: 0024-2535

Article publication date: 1 April 2000




Nurcombe, V.J. (2000), "E‐Serials: Publishers, Libraries, Users and Standards", Library Review, Vol. 49 No. 3, pp. 139-156. https://doi.org/10.1108/lr.2000.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

What is an e‐serial? There is no clear definition and in the preface Wayne Jones notes the essential irony in publishing a printed book about e‐serials. However, he then goes on to try and define an e‐serial, coming to the conclusion that as far as the text in hand is concerned it must remain flexible. All e‐serials are available electronically and do not include CD‐ROMs and disks but do include electronic versions of printed journals as well as those journals which do not exist in print with myriad names including e‐journals, electronic serials, e‐zines, Internet‐based electronic journals, Internet‐based serials, on‐line journals, networked electronic journals and even Web sites. However, in discussing the application of AACR2 to serials there is a fuller discussion, albeit also an inconclusive one.

This is a very large collection of essays – too many to list the contributors. In order to make some sense of them they have been grouped by basic topic. These cover: Publishing at various levels; Pricing of the on‐line versus the print and other versions; Copyright examines the problems arising and some solutions; Acquisitions and collection development is a considerable section as is Cataloguing and Metadata; Preservation and Archiving brings together many themes mentioned elsewhere; Local and National Projects just do not fit into other headings; Indexing; Uniform Resource Identifiers; Citation. These last three cover specific problems which have been mentioned elsewhere also. The essays illustrate the themes and amazingly contain very little overlap. They do illustrate the sheer scope that e‐serials now encompass and the overlapping of once distinct spheres in the library or information service.

Anyone reading this volume in sufficient detail has the information to set up their own e‐serial, to set up an index to a range of serials, cataloguing and identifying them as accurately as is possible in many instances. The scale of the projects discussed varies widely from the top end, OCLC developments which have changed in 1999 since this contribution was made in 1997, to the small project indexing three e‐serials manually. The pages of detailed cataloguing records and html text present a formidable but highly instructive read.

At another level this is a mine of Web site information even when it is acknowledged that many names change and that tracking serials listings to ensure that name references to sites are still valid presents a problem many collections are still trying to tackle. The serials librarian is now faced with the awesome situation that licences are negotiated and paid for access to serials but that the Web site name can actually change, even disappear, with no notice. Since back issues are on‐line, not in the library, the commercial failure of a supplier can result in the loss of a back file of issues without redress. It appears that few libraries have the resources to maintain downloaded back files of on‐line issues. At one point in discussing licence negotiation it was pointed out to a potential supplier that the licence was so worded as to prevent any use of the journal being supplied. Litigation by publishers alleging mis‐use of serials purchased by licence for on‐line use becomes a possibility. But there is also the question of ownership. The paper copy resides in the library which has bought and owns it. The on‐line copy often costs more but the ownership is lost. The publisher can withdraw it. The issues continue to mount the more one reads the detail in these essays.

Food for thought increases as the technology is discussed. The issues of legal deposit have been discussed elsewhere but are brought up here. The problems involved with durability of media are being superseded by means of access to those files, issues, journals saved to disk but with obsolete technology. Scandinavian University Press discusses not only the means of coping with the new options but also the complete change in the process of publishing which has ensued. They now expect to receive manuscripts electronically. The review process is fully electronic. The final result is electronic, a Web journal. Print is not only not produced, it is not used and the speed of production is increased. It is the latter which contributed to the acceptance of the e‐serial in the early days when the physics paper database at Los Alamos National Laboratory gave access to pre‐prints of papers submitted, before they had gone through the lengthy print publication process. What a pity the index does not include a means of locating the reference unless you remember the location at Los Alamos or look up pre‐prints. Physics does not retrieve it. While an excellent volume, the size of the index just cannot do it justice given the sheer volume of detail here.

This volume identifies issues for publisher, author and librarian as well as issues affecting the value of the printed journal which do not affect a purely Internet‐based journal. While some are theoretical other contributions are down to earth. Guidelines are suggested for purchase procedures and for selection of on‐line journals. The future of the serials librarian is questioned in a revised world where all roles are changing. All serials librarians should try to digest some of the implications of these essays but will come to the same conclusion “Still more questions than answers remain” (p. 41).

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