Re: For Whom the Gate Tolls?

From: John Grohol PsyD <johngr_at_CMHCSYS.COM>
Date: Sat, 29 Aug 1998 09:57:36 -0400

At 06:03 AM 8/29/98 -0400, you wrote:
>There was a time when a person like Ben Franklin was a writer, printer,
>and publisher out of one little shop. We are actually heading back to
>that possiblity at a rather rapid rate.
>First of all, I suspect the latest web server technology at a cost of
>about $20,000 would support about 5,000 users in terms of retrieving
>material like "journal articles".

I could support 5,000 users easily, with virtually no additional
costs to my regular monthly expenses, using resources already
available to me. I regularly offer our computing resources to
individuals and organization for other kinds of online efforts.
I suspect any university or well-equipped company could add
such a service at virtually no additional expense as well.

Or I could setup such a system on my home computer, which is
connected to the Net via a cable modem, which could easily handle
5,000 users. Again, this would be at virtually no cost.
Or if I didn't want it on my computer, I could setup an
old 486 I have sitting here as a Web server.

Or I could setup an account with any service provider for
$20/month (local ISPs usually don't mind such use), or
get a commercial account for $80-100/month.

Software costs are even cheaper. Apache, the world's most
popular Web server, is free. Other more proprietary systems,
like Microsoft's, cost some money. There are many database
programs available at little to no cost.

I think people tend to over-estimate the technical costs,
because they plan for unnecessary capacity up-front. With
most decent models of online service delivery, you can add
capacity on the back-end, on an as-needed basis and as
expenses allow.

The most expensive cost, in my opinion, is professionals'
time. But if a person could get a lot of this donated,
then even that is not an insurmountable roadblock.

Cost is not the problem so much as acceptance by the academic
community at large, and acceptance into literature databases
of these electronic journals.

Some have also suggested that professional societies and
associations could help support such electronic journals.
I agree, with a caveat. Most larger such organizations are
already publishers themselves of journals. These are quite
profitable businesses for them and they are unlikely to
give them up. They may convert them to online use, but they
will still charge traditional journal costs for the electronic
journal. Publishing is a very old industry, with a very
ingrained mentality and economies which translate badly online.
None of them will be pushing for these new models.

Paper journals have advantages which aren't going to go away
anytime soon. I can't easily read an electronic article
unless I turn on my computer, log into the Internet, pull
up the journal's Web site, find an article of interest,
then sit online and read it for 10-15 minutes. (Perhaps it
also can come to me as a piece of e-mail, but is a little
less attractive to read and navigate through.) Alternatively,
I can print it out, but the up-front expense on the reader
is greater than it is for a paper journal. A paper journal
comes to me via mail, no computer needed, and can easily
be transported anywhere I want. It's amazing, but I think
often times these usability issues are overlooked, despite
their significance. Are people willing to pay for the
convenience of a paper journal? I think in the short-term,

Online books have the same problems. Until someone invents
a device which works as easily as a book, under nearly any
lighting conditions, and is pretty darned cheap, paper is
with us for longer than I think a lot of people realize.
(Look where a company like Yahoo! finally found a way to
make money -- publishing a magazine and books!)

I'm all for this revolution, but since I don't think most
readers perceive this need as greatly as others do,
it will be slow in coming.


Mental Health Net
Received on Tue Aug 25 1998 - 19:17:43 BST

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