UBC Reports | Vol. 49 | No. 3 | Mar.
Putting an End to Expensive Print Journals in
the February 6, 2003 edition of UBC Reports brings up an important
issue that UBC librarians have been struggling with for a
number of years: the purchase of print vs. electronic journals.
With the advent of the Internet, the tradition of refereeing,
printing, and distributing journals that had developed over
the past century was turned on its head. No one today can
deny the contribution electronic journals have made to facilitating
ease and access to academic writing, but until we can be sure
electronic journals are continuously available, the library
will also purchase as many of their print equivalents as the
I applaud UBC Education Professor John Willinskys efforts
to seek other means of providing information and cut the costs
of what are admittedly a huge drain on the financial resources
of the university in general and of its library system in
particular. But there are important issues to consider and
discuss so that articles are available over the long term
and in the most cost-effective manner.
Academic provision of journal articles free on the Internet
is also not without challenges for both present and future
access. Clifford Lynch, director of the Coalition for Networked
Information and adjunct professor at Berkeley's School of
Information Management and Systems recently spoke at UBC,
saying that direct electronic access to academic research
is occurring without an accompanying means of preserving it.
There are countless projects on North American computers that
have been abandoned and/or forgotten after a research grant
has run out, after a leading researcher retires, after an
operating system is changed, or after interest in a given
Also problematic is the more usual provision of electronic
articles that come by way of third party providers (Gale,
Ebsco, ProQuest etc.) that purchase rights to distribute individual
journals. Unlike libraries, these private firms are not obligated
and make no commitment to continue providing access to a given
journal should it prove uneconomical to do so. Alternatively
if one of these providers goes out of business or merges with
another, any number of journals could be dropped and, at the
stroke of a pen, 10 or more years of an electronic journal
could no longer be accessible.
Ironically, the very journals that Professor Willinsky is
sitting on in the photo accompanying this article may provide
the only copy of an article he needs in five years time
if electronic access to them is arbitrarily wiped out by the
provider or if they are inadequately preserved.
- Donna Jean MacKinnon, Librarian
UBC Law Library