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Long Term Availability

Although the discussion has recently focussed on the short term problems
of ensuring that material is available for the duration of an annual
license, the even greater problem is with the long term availability of
electronic material. 

Basically, the long term availability (and here I am talking decades, or
even centuries for scholarly material) will require both a Web-based set
of material plus active management to keep refreshing the material. 
Electronic material has to be updated (technically, not the content) to
make it accessible by the current technology.  From time to time the
electronic archival material will have to be migrated to new format
standards as required. 

Of course, none of this is possible if the original electronic material is
not prepared with an eye toward this capability. Our experience at the
American Astronomical Society and the University of Chicago Press has
shown that an electronic journal can be updated frequently at very low
cost, either in money or reseorces, provided that it exists in SGML or
some logically marked up format. As more and more electronic-only features
appear in the journals, this will become more and more important. 

And inherent in my comment is the assumption that publishers are in a
better position than anyone else to manage their electronic archives.  It
will certainly be easier for them to do it.  The question is whether they
will step up to the responsibility. 

The problem is how to ensure that the publishers will, in fact, continue
to make their material accessible into the indefinite future.  I suspect
the most effective approach for the library community is to discuss this
during license negotiations. 

Right now, we make such a promise, but it is, admittedly not in our
license.  However, we have started an archive maintenance fund by using a
small percentage of our current income.  The idea is to ensure that we
accumulate enough in this fund to make whatever translatioin is needed
every five years. 

Since we derive both the print and electronic products from our SGML
archive, we have been able to add technological updates to our entire
corpus of electronic journal issues a couple of times during the last five
years.  That has proven to be so inexpensive, that we can do it out of
current operating funds. 

The question for librarians to ask publishers is whether journals will be
updated, whether they will be accessible a long time in the future, and
what publishers will deliver if they should ever stop supporting their
older electronic products.  I think the situation is different for the
learned society, non-profit publishers and the commercial publishers, but
we are in the process of showing that it need not be a financial burden,
provided (and that is a big IF) the publishing process is designed around
that goal. 

I posted some comments on the SLA-PAM list about long term availability of
material.  If there is interest, I can post it here, too. It deals in more
detail with the drawbacks of using page image formats, such as PDF, for
electronic journals. 

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For those unfamiliar with us, we publish, in cooperation with the
University of Chicago Press, the Astrophysical Journal and the
Astronomical Journal, a combined total of 30,000 pages per year. Both
journals are over 100 years old, and we plan that the electronic editions
should be available for at least that long. 

The Astrophysical Journal is available at:

One item of note, the Letters section is now on a fast track, and appears
on the Web article by article about two weeks after the paper is accepted
by the scientific editor, and some six to eight weeks before the issue

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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