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Perpetual Access

The concept of perpetual access is a tangled one in the electronic
environment.  The first thing to consider is that an electronic license
generally provides access to all the back electronic issues for the
price of one year's license fee.  As the years pass, this will become
a growing bargain. The extension of the argument that subscribers
should have access only to the years they have paid for would imply
that the back issues should not be made available unless specifically
paid for year by year.  I don't think this is a good thing either for
scholarship or for the licensees.

More importantly, we have to understand that there are presently two
kinds of so-called electronic journals, those with a rich set of
resource links and those without.

Most things passed off as e-journals today are available in page image
format (PDF or PS) and do not have links  to referencesd and citations
and other data.  They are simply electronic delivery of page images.
Electronic delivery alone does not remove us from the paper paradigm of
publishing we are used to.  In this case it is clear that the publisher
should provide some form of physical product, either included in the
price, or at an additional cost. For various reasons outlined in
previous messages, it is somewhat impractical to provide access in
perpetuity over the network.

True e-journals, on the other hand, contain a rich set of links to
references and citations, operate a name resolver (to ensure that as
the URLs change the links still remain) and include access to non-paper
things such as video and other data resources pertinent to the
article.  These articles are not dead words on a page, put down once
and subsequently left alone.  They are living entities, updated as
often as needed to remain fresh and accessible by the current software
and technology.  So far, these true e-journals are not very numerous,
and are beyond the experience of most librarians.  This will change.

As an example of a good journal delivered over the WWW see the
Astrophysical Journal at http://www/journals/ which has
some sample issues available for free.  This journal is linked to a
freely accessible database of 20 years of abstracts and back issues of
most major journals in astronomy, with both backward links (references)
and forward links (citations) carried with each article, not to mention
access to databases of astronomical information.

As new browsing tools become available, the entire corpus of the publicly
available electronic journal can be rederived from the richly tagged
archival copy maintained by the publisher. In this way, we added the
HTML tabes format to the Astrophysical Journal retrospectively.  We
have a journal which has to be maintained on a regular basis.  But more
than that, we have a journal in which the links make up a substantial
portion of the value of the articles.  

Without the links, the journal drops back to fossilized words on a
screen.  Libraries should, in this case, have access to what they have
paid for -- which is just electronic delivery of page images.

On the other hand, a living, vibrant, linked e-journal is a different
creature and requires a different approach. Here the linked back issues
are, in fact, a reqired part of the e-journal.  Since the total base of
knowledge is distributed over many providers, the access has to be made
through the WWW. In this totally distributed scenario, it makes no
sense, from the standpoint of scholarly use, to talk about licensing
individual years.

The real problem is not perpetual access, but rather, how to ensure
that the complete archive of the interlinked literature remains
accessible.  We have begun to solve this problem in the world-wide
astronomical community -- which is a compact community whith only a few
major journals.  Now it is up to the other communities to work toward
the same sort of combined and interlinked information resource which is
proving to be a tremendous tool in the conduct of new research in

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Some of my publications on a new vision for electronic scholarly
publishing can be found at

Dr. Peter B. Boyce			
Senior Associate and past Executive Officer
American Astronomical Society                   Fax:    202-234-2560			Ph:     202-328-2010

Peter B. Boyce
Senior Associate and past Executive Officer
American Astronomical Society				Phone: 202 328-2010
2000 Florida Ave. #400, Washington, DC  20009		FAX: 202-234-2560
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