I absolutely agree that reading articles online from a database is
nothing like reading a magazine or a journal. But why must the
experience be "atomized"? For example, I find reading The New York
Review of Books online to be very nearly as satisfying as reading it
in print was, and plus I don't have to recycle it.
Online databases are not currently configured to simulate a journal's
website but, as we used to say in the embedded systems world, SMOP.
It's just a Simple Matter Of Programming.
On 7/16/07, K.G. Schneider <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> I'm doing some exploratory poking around an issue that is of dual importance
> to me as a librarian and writer: the fidelity of the print journal in online
> databases. I feel as if this is such an obvious issue that there must have
> been EXTENSIVE discussion about this over the last ten or fifteen years, so
> bear with me if I am missing the fly on the end of my nose.
> Here's the issue in narrative form: a library subscribes to a small-press
> journal. The journal's articles are also indexed in some database or other.
> The library runs out of space and money to physically house the journal, and
> drops the print edition.
> The journal issue itself now has no physical representation in the database.
> It's a series of articles. It is (and we now move into the alternate
> universe where Michael Gorman and I think alike and even use the same
> vocabulary) atomized. Even if you can force the database to bring together
> the related articles, it is a kludge at best.
> For some journals, maybe that never mattered anyway. But for many journals
> in the humanities, the issue is the experience. There are some very nice
> online journals, and increasingly, small presses, which operate just barely
> above cost-recovery, are reinventing themselves online. But take the recent
> issues of Missouri Review or The American Scholar... like a book, a journal
> issue is its own event (though unlike most book-length narratives, one that
> can be enjoyably experienced incompletely and in the reader's own preferred
> order, which is part of the fun as well). Even though the individual content
> of the journal may be preserved piece by piece, the totality of the journal
> has not.
> Let's set aside some of the characteristics that can't be dragged to the
> online medium (the feel and smell of paper, for example) or arguments I find
> specious (how many people take baths any more, anyway?). That said, to what
> extent do databases (or do not...) recreate the "issue experience"-that
> sense of aboutness and completion for a journal issue? Do we care?
> I see some work is done in metadata that can express the relationship
> between articles in a journal. But I'm curious how much we (librarians) care
> about this business of fidelity or whether it's just another silent victim
> of change. I worry that without intending to we could hasten the death of an
> entire area of literature.
> Though with some intentionality, we could also help save this literature, as
> well (because mailing and printing costs are the obvious threats to the
> small presses-a number have moved online, or started online, and thrive
> there in their small-press manner; if a database could represent, say, The
> American Scholar in a way that did it justice, that might be a very good
> Again, maybe I'm just missing something really, really obvious... please do
> step in to say, Karen, where have you been? ... or perhaps there are some
> e-humanities initiatives already working in this area... but the more and
> more I engage with small presses, the more this concerns me.
> K.G. Schneider
> Free Range Librarian
> AIM/Email: [log in to unmask]
Sharon M. Foster, B.S., J.D., 0.5 * (MLS)
Cheshire Public Library
104 Main Street
Cheshire, CT 06410
My library school portfolio: http://home.southernct.edu/~fosters4/
Any opinions expressed here are entirely my own.