the future of the journal

pontificating on the impending demise of the journal

Karen Schneider will be speaking on a panel at ALA Midwinter on the topic of tech trends. She asks her readers if they have any thoughts about what is on the horizon.

The other day I was pontificating on the impending demise of the journal to a patient friend. Well, okay, not pontificating, but I was going off a bit about it. And not really the demise of the journal per se, but more about the change in how journals will be published in the future. The electronic format suits the nature of journals very well, and the trend towards born digital content is plainly glaring us in the face. However, one thing I have not heard discussed much is what this is doing to the concept of units within a journal.

Will we continue the arcane practice of breaking up journals into discrete volumes and issues? I don’t think so. Already we are seeing publishers take advantage of the electronic format by providing access (for subscribers) to articles in press prior to the actual publication date of the issue. I think that eventually, the journal as an entity will be comprised of an editorial board and review process, with a certain quantity of articles per year made available to subscribers as they clear that process.

Unless an issue has a particular theme, there’s almost no need to maintain the discreteness of paper publishing in the electronic world. Sure, we’ll need identifiers for citations and references and such, but we have that already with the DOI and OpenURL frameworks.

And besides, if our students no longer think of the journal as an entity, then eventually researchers will do the same because today’s students are tomorrow’s content providers.