Re: For Whom the Gate Tolls?

From: Guedon Jean-Claude <guedon_at_ERE.UMONTREAL.CA>
Date: Mon, 31 Aug 1998 21:37:44 -0400

On Sat, 29 Aug 1998, John Grohol PsyD wrote:

> Date: Sat, 29 Aug 1998 09:57:36 -0400
> From: John Grohol PsyD <johngr_at_CMHCSYS.COM>
> Subject: Re: For Whom the Gate Tolls?

> 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.

The allusion to free source software works well with the remark about
donated professional time.

In a sense, our challenge is to transpose to e-publishing what the Linux
kids have done to software programming, following in this the example of
the GNU people (Stallman et al.).

Ironically, the scientific revolution, based as it was on the widest
possible dissemination of scientific news, and, therefore, heavily
dependent upon that new technology called printing, is probably the first
prototype of the free source software movement. Maybe it it time that the
free source movement pays science back ...

In more concrete terms, we must try to design a free e-printing press
collectively rather than do things separately. Internet was built like
this and so was Unix for part of its history. I am sure Ben Franklin
would appreciate! :-)

> > 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.

Indeed. In fact, when printing came along, it was in the midst of a
feudal world where a few religious institutions and a few princes did a
good job at controlling the production, flow and storage of documents.
The point then was more continuity and integrity of documents (for the
Church as well as for the law). Then print came along and proposed a very
subversive thing: let us act as if a text were a commodity and see what
happens. The rest is history, although it took nearl a century to
stabilize the book trade and ensure its economic viability. Some even
claim that printing was the first example of mass-produced, industrial
commodity in western history. No wonder it is hard to unglue texts and
documents from the commodity paradigm. Luckily, digitization wakes us to
the fact that documents are very diverse and their relationship to money
varies a lot. One does not commodify a Harlequin novel the way one
commodifies a dictionary...
> 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,
> yes.
> 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.

Indeed, but, in the scholarly world, the upfront cost of printing could
be offered by subsidized libraries. Incidentally, libraries could charge
a bit more than needed to print the e-publication for their patrons (who
would retain their free access to the screen or the 0 and 1 version) and
thus make some money to finance other segments of the publishing process.
> -John
> --
> Mental Health Net

        Jean-Claude Guédon Tel. 514-343-6208
        Département de littérature comparée Fax. 514-343-2211
        Université de Montréal
        CP 6128, Succursale "Centre-ville" Surfaces
        Montréal, Qc H3C 3J7

See you at INET'99, San Jose, June 22-25, 1999
Received on Tue Aug 25 1998 - 19:17:43 BST

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