Electronic Publishing: The Movement From Print To Digital Publication

  • Ruth Ludwick PhD, RN, C
    Ruth Ludwick PhD, RN, C

    Ruth Ludwick PhD, RN is an Associate Professor at Kent State University College of Nursing, Kent, OH, and teaches across the curriculum in both the graduate and undergraduate programs. She has numerous publications and has presented nationally and internationally. Her scholarship is focused in the areas of gerontology, patient confusion, and teaching.

  • Greer Glazer PhD, RN, CNP, FAAN
    Greer Glazer PhD, RN, CNP, FAAN

    Gleer Glazer received her BSN from the University of Michigan and her MSN and PhD in Nursing from Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, CaseWestern Reserve University. She is Professor and Director of Parent Child Nursing at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. Dr. Glazer is a recognized nurse researcher in women's health and stress, an expert in nursing health care policy and is a certified Women's Health Nurse Practitioner. She has served on the American Nurses Association Political Action Committee, the Ohio Nurses Association Political Action Committee and numerous local boards. She has been the Legislative Editor of OJIN since its inauguration.


This article provides an overview of electronic publishing, describes how information increasingly is being exchanged within the scientific community, and discusses the scholarly qualifications of electronic venues.

The following content is included:

  1. definition of electronic publishing;
  2. uses and types of electronic publishing;
  3. uses of electronic journals in nursing and health care;
  4. advantages and disadvantages of electronic journals;
  5. advantages and disadvantages of print journals; and
  6. the authors' projections for the future.

Hotlinks to a variety of Internet resources on electronic resources are integrated throughout the article.

Key words: electronic publishing, electronic journals, online journals, digital publication, communication and information management


Electronic mail (E-mail), compact disc read only memory (CD-ROM), and electronic journals (E-journals; online journals) are common everyday terms that only originated in the 1980s (WWWebster Dictionary, 2000; www.m-w.com/dictionary.htm).

Electronic publishing has revolutionized the way we think, talk and act.

Yet, these words are increasingly found in everyday conversations of people of all ages, professions, countries, and businesses. Electronic publishing has revolutionized the way we think, talk and act. In less than 20 years, changes in communication and information management (the essence of electronic publishing) have become so profound that the era we now live in is called Information Age. An Age that is not completely understood by many of us living in it, but will be scrutinized by historians and studied by school children as the Industrial Revolution and Space Age have been examined by current generations. Of importance to nursing, other healthcare providers and consumers experiencing this latest era of change is how electronic publishing is altering and reforming how we communicate and control information in our lives.

The purposes of this article are to provide an overview of electronic publishing, to describe how information increasingly is being exchanged within the scientific community, and to discuss the scholarly qualifications of electronic venues. First, we will discuss what is meant by electronic publishing and second, give examples of usage and types of electronic publishing. Third we will examine how electronic publishing, particularly e-journals are used in nursing and health care. Fourth, we will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of electronic journals and fifth, discuss the advantages and disadvantages of print journals. We will end with a look into the 21st century and project how electronic journals maybe used by nurses in the future.

Electronic Publishing: What Do We Mean

Electronic publishing has been broadly defined as non-print material that is produced digitally. Electronic publishing is an encompassing term for a variety of digitally produced materials (Jones & Cook, 2000) such as bulletin boards, newsgroups, mailing lists, CD-ROM based media, and websites. Material produced electronically can be classified into two major categories that are not mutually exclusive: communication and information management. CD-ROMs and websites are often categorized as information management, while others like newsgroups/forums and mailing lists can be grouped as a means of communication. The differentiation often lies in whether the central purpose is sending messages (communication) or store-housing knowledge or resources (information management).

CDs, for example, may store information, such as data from a book or encyclopedia. An increasing number of nursing textbooks include a CD for the buyer and included on the CD are supplemental text material. In a like manner to CDs, information can be stored on web sites. However, instead of the computer reading a CD, the computer reads the information that is kept at the website. The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, for example, is information that is stored at the American Nurses Association's website, Nursingworld (www.nursingworld.org/ojin)

E-mail, bulletin boards, newsgroups, and mailing lists are used to convey messages or to carry out discussions. These type of media require some interactivity with another person either in real time (synchronous) or asynchronously when the other person is not connected to you. In synchronous communication, which is used in chat rooms and in teleconferencing, exchanges are immediate as if talking on the phone. Asynchronous communication is more common than synchronous and implies delayed reading and writing (posting) of messages like an answering machine stores messages.

Electronic publishing, no matter its form is broadcasted, distributed, or disseminated digitally through a computer. However, an important distinction to note is that not all electronic publications are scholarly. Rather some electronic publications include opinions, views, discussions and other types of information that do not meet the criteria of scholarship. Scholarship in its broadest sense implies that certain criteria have been met: goals are clearly stated, background preparation is sufficient, approach to the issue/topic is appropriate, important conclusions are made; presentation of material is effective, and that the project is thoughtfully evaluated (Glassick,1997, www.unl.edu/peerrev/project_description/glassick.html).

Use of and Types of Electronic Publishing

The use of computers has exploded. Currently there are 43 million connected computers across the world (Matrix Information and Directory Services, Inc, 1999 www.ngi.org/trends/TrendsPR9902.txt, www.ngi.org/trends/trendsregional.html). Worldwide there are projected to be over 200 million users online over the age of 16 (NUA survey, 1999, (). The use of electronic medium enables a large segment of the peoples of the world to seek out information and exchange ideas for personal, business, and/or educational use. In the United States, for example, fifty percent of all students had access to the use of computers for studying math (ETS's Policy Information Center, 1999. www.ets.org/research/pic/ccsum.html). Using the framework of communication and managing information this section will provide an overview of the ways computers are used a) to send messages and network and b) provide for information management.

Messaging and networking

Messaging and networking are two means of using electronic publication for communication. Messaging through e-mail is one of the most widely established ways to communicate and allows one or more persons to correspond in writing. Networking allows messages to be sent and discussions to occur among a few people or in some cases among thousands of people. As both messaging and networking use an e-mail type application, e-mail will be briefly reviewed first. For the novice user seeking more "how-to" information on e-mail, click on the following links: www.nursingworld.org/, www.webfoot.com/advice/email.context.html, www.pbs.org/uti/guide/email.html, www.pb.org/emoticon.html.

E-mail can be likened to letter or note writing. However, instead of mailing a written copy through a carrier such as a postal service or leaving a message on someone's desk, a note/letter is electronically published through computers. While most e-mail is simply a written message, a file or files can be sent along with the e-mail. These attachments can contain pictures, video, audio, or long text or database files like protocols, articles or research data.

Because e-mail can be distributed widely and it is digital, it is considered an electronic publication. Although, e-mail, like a letter, is obviously not considered scholarly, this type of communication can facilitate scholarship, as, for example when many clinical and research experts use e-mail among colleagues for the exchange of ideas and information and for reflection.

Networking, in contrast to e-mail, implies a wider list of recipients, a broader array of communication techniques and often an ongoing communication process. Most often networking is based on mutual interests. It involves broadcasting to or interacting with individuals/groups with similar backgrounds like nurses, or teens, or hobbyists. Common methods of networking are mailing lists, usenet news groups, and forums. The frequency of use, whether for announcements or discussion, depends on the purpose of the list, but often range from once a day to once a month. Mailing lists are used for two major purposes: to send one-way announcements to a wide audience or for interactive discussions among a group of "subscribed" members that are interested in a specific topic or field. Both are based on e-mail.

The announcement type mailing list is frequently used by a vast number of organizations throughout the world to send information that needs distributed widely, quickly and efficiently. These messages cannot be sent over the Internet or the Intranet, (a computer system within an organization for networking computers that is set up similarly to the internet, but is for the use of employees only). See definition list for terms at www.matisse.net/files/glossary.html. Some examples of messages that are common, but certainly not exhaustive in mailing lists include: homework assignments, public service announcements, road closings, meeting times and agendas, conference information, news, and jokes.

Discussion-based mailing lists allow subscribers (members who have signed up to participate) to send and receive e-mail messages about the identified purpose of the discussion group. This type of communication is sometimes called a listerv (www.matisse.net/files/glossary.html) reflecting of one of the early software programs used for discussions. These discussion groups (or lists) can be reviewed before being sent (moderated) or just sent immediately to all subscribers without review (unmoderated). One of the largest mailing list services is Listz (www.liszt.com/).

Newsgroups are similar to the discussion-based mailing lists previously discussed, but differ in how the messages are accessed and the organization of the messaging. The "news" is the messages that are sent. This type of messaging was developed at the University of North Carolina 20 years ago. E-mail is not the basis for newsgroup forum. Special software, which may be part of the browser on your computer is necessary to access the discussion (Thede, 1999). Newsgroups are hierarchically organized under categories of interest such as science (sci), computers (comp) or social issues (soc) and may be nationally, internationally, regionally or locally distributed. (See www.faqs.org/ for more complete examples and www.nursingworld.org/ for list of news groups more specific to nursing.)

Chat rooms... allow "real time" or synchronous text posting...

Forums and chat rooms, are also a means of communication. They are web based and often developed and sustained organizations for their constituents. Forums are like newsgroups in that the messages are often "threaded" or organized by a theme. Forums are also like e-mail, mailing lists and newsgroups as they are asynchronous, exchanging information at different times. Chat rooms, which have exploded in the commercial sector, allow "real time" or synchronous text posting and have primarily been used for socializing or for commercial purposes such as book promotions.

Information management

The second way that computers are used in electronic publishing is to manage information. Through computer software like CD-ROMs and through connections to websites, computers can store information or serve as a channel for accessing information. Some forms of electronic publishing that are available through computers include: (www.newspapers.com/), encyclopedias (www.libraryspot.com/encyclopedias.htm), books (digital.library.upenn.edu/books/titles.html), magazines or e-zines (www.library.kent.edu/collmgmt/fullejnls.html); and journals (www.nursingworld.org/).

Just a few short years ago many of these medium were available only in hard copy at libraries and almost always peer reviewed. However, as computers have become more accessible and their capacity has expanded, the types and amount of electronic publications have multiplied astronomically. This explosion of material has increased knowledge access for some people, but this explosion has raised questions related to information management. Some issues to consider pertain to searching, publishing, evaluating, and maintaining the plethora of information that is computer based.

Dewar, (1998, www.rand.org/publications/P/P8014/) states "...the process of preserving, updating and disseminating knowledge..." has changed and the public and scholars have come to expect "... immediately available, instant feedback, [and] constantly-updated electronic publishing..." Therefore, each discipline and each professional must determine the specific criteria for scholarly publishing and what use in general they will make of electronic publishing. Nurses, must individually and collectively examine how they will use epublishing and the manner in which it will be evaluated.

Electronic Publishing and Nursing

Just as electronic publishing is transforming communication and information management in the public and other professional sectors, so too is the profession of nursing using and in some instances leading the way in electronic publishing.

Electronic publishing is developing as a tool within nursing and across practice areas, much as the more traditional clinical tools of stethoscopes and syringes.

Electronic publishing is developing as a tool within nursing and across practice areas, much as the more traditional clinical tools of stethoscopes and syringes. Some ways nurses use electronic publishing are to communicate with patients, fellow nurses, and other professionals; monitor patients' conditions; document findings; dispense advice and teach; earn continuing education credits; and keep abreast of advances and findings through reading.

There are, however, differences in uses (numbers, i.e., from few to many) and applications (range, i.e., from basic to complex). Let us expand on some everyday examples that convey the variety of uses and applications. Most hospitals have been using computers for purchasing for years and increasingly nurses use computers to document their care, but the extent of use for documentation is much less than for purchasing. Some nurses visit web sites to learn more about patient education while some nurses (fewer) have set up web sites to provide patient education.

Nurses are also beginning to use information management and communication in their scholarship. Some nurse researchers have used electronic publishing to access databases like CINAHL for conducting literature reviews while others have used electronic publishing to gather survey data. This data is typically gathered by sending out an electronic questionnaire or making an electronic questionnaire available at a website.

Publication of electronic journals (online journals) in nursing has also increased steadily during the 1990's. However there is no uniformity in their format, content, or scholarly nature. Murray & Anthony (1999), describe a continuum of electronic journals from paper content transferred from a print journal to the web; to paper content with some web-only content; to electronic format only with no paper version; to fully interactive which involves hypermedia such as animated graphics, sound and moving images. The diverse content contained in electronic journals may include scholarly articles, non-scholarly articles, reader responses to articles, editorials, book reviews, advertisements, job opportunities, continuing education offerings, data sets, and previews of research in progress. Although electronic journals currently vary in the scholarly review process of articles, there is no reason that the accepted process of peer review used in print journals cannot be used by online journals. Despite the variability associated with electronic publications, there are advantages and disadvantages that generally apply to all electronic journals.

Advantages of Electronic Journals

Advantages of electronic journals include accessibility, usability, increased communication and collaboration between authors and readers, dissemination, technologic capabilities, facilitation of scholarly work and cost.


Electronic journals are accessible to all users regardless of geographic location. Anyone in the world with services and the proper computer software and browser services can access online journals. This accessibility leads to a more diverse audience throughout the world as well as a readership that may include not only academics, but students and lay people. The electronic medium allows for translation of articles into other languages using software (http://babelfish.altavista.digital.com/). The nomenclature box contains an example of the purpose statement of this article translated into French using this site.


 Les buts de cet article sont fournir une vue d'ensemble de l'édition électronique, décrire comment 'information de plus en plus est permutée au sein de la communauté scientifique, et de discuter les qualifications savantes des rendez-vous électroniques.


Due to the universal accessibility of electronic journals (with the proper equipment and services), they can be used regardless of location. The reader is not required to be in a library in a specific place where the specific journal is located. In addition, the reader does not have to possess or read the entire journal or article.

Electronic journal articles are particularly easy to use because journal issues can be "unbundled" and specific files identified and retrieved. Within specific files or journal articles, it is easy for the reader to read only pieces. Content from electronic journals can be easily transmitted to others and reproduced. Ease of searchability of content is often cited as an advantage of electronic publication, however searchability varies considerably in different electronic publications at this time.

The potential for increased collaboration between authors and readers increases as electronic journals move along the continuum from paper content transferred to the web to fully interactive journals. The electronic medium allows for the opportunity for debate and discussion either by posting interchanges between readers and authors, as well as reviewers, related to specific articles, hosting listservs or chatrooms, and including datasets that are available to all. These discussions can be ongoing and not restricted to a one-time letter to the editor response. Increased communication and collaboration are also the result of lack of space and time constraints in the journals. Since there are usually no page limitations with electronic journals, the author and readers are free to express their thoughts thoroughly and during a time frame that may be convenient for the individual. The accessibility associated with online journals results in increased diversity and frequency of communication, with a much larger audience than print journals as well as the potential for more interdisciplinary collaboration.


A major advantage of online journals is the immediacy of dissemination from review of articles to production and distribution of the articles.

A major advantage of online journals is the immediacy of dissemination from review of articles to production and distribution of the articles.

Whereas the process from article submission to publication can take at least 1-2 years for print journals, the process can take significantly less time for electronic journals. The review process may take 6-8 weeks (Bishop, 1995) with publication nearly instantaneously once the article is accepted and revised (Sparks, 1999). The electronic journal editors are free to publish articles as they are ready rather than delaying publication until a specific number of articles are accepted for a specific issue. Therefore, electronic journals will have more current information than print journals. A related benefit of electronic publication is that the editors can notify subscribers that new articles or materials have been posted, assuring immediacy of information retrieval.

Technologic capabilities

Things that are not possible to do with print journals are among the best features of online journals. Electronic journals can provide animation, virtual reality, interactive three-dimensional display, forward references, linked comments and replies, and navigational aids such as internal hyperlinks between the text and corresponding tables, figures, and bibliographic references (Holoviak & Seilter, 1999). At the present time, multimedia capabilities are often limited by the user's equipment and services.

Facilitation of Scholarly Work

The greatest facilitator of scholarly work is the ready and quick access to scientific materials, whether they be actual datasets or scholarly articles. The scholar has the most up to date information available as compared to print articles which are usually at least 1-2 years old. Articles in online journals can include retractions of incorrect information and additions of new information from either the original author or readers. The linkage of text with other scholarly works enables the scholar to easily retrieve articles that pertain to the area of scholarly inquiry without reliance on a library collection. The scholar can develop a personal electronic file of articles that is individualized so that materials can be organized and accessed in the manner best suited to the scholar's own needs (Tenopir, 1995). The ability to easily track use of electronic journal articles through user sessions or "hits" is a welcome benefit for scholars interested in documenting impact of their scholarly work for promotion and tenure committees.


Most electronic journals do not charge the reader at the present time, thus the cost for the reader of online journals is less than the cost for print journals. In addition, there is no cost to the reader for reprints. Many libraries have welcomed electronic journals as a way to circumvent the high cost of print journals (Tenopir, 1995). The rising costs associated with print journals are associated with excessive increases in cost of paper and rising postage rates (Miller, 1996). There are, however, costs to the publishers of electronic journals in terms of extensive time commitments to produce the journal, use of facilities, and use of materials and equipment. Opinions on the cost to electronic publishers has varied substantially from "down right cheap" (Miller, 1996, p 2) to comparable to print journals (Holoviak & Seitter, 1999). See additional information on cost of ejournals in this issue of OJIN (Budd, 2000, www.nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/ANAMarketplace/ANAPeriodicals/OJIN/TableofContents/Volume52000/No1Jan00/EconomicsofElectronicJournals.aspx).

Disadvantages of Electronic Journals

Most of the disadvantages of electronic journals relate to technical difficulties of the user and network constraints. Other disadvantages are user unfriendliness, lack of accessibility, cost, misconduct and security issues, time commitment and lack of widespread acceptance within the scientific community.

Technical difficulties

The reader must possess some basic computing and networking skills in order to take advantage of electronic journals. Basic computer skills are needed, in addition to the ability to navigate the World Wide Web. In order to get the most out of the potential benefits of online journals, the reader should be able to create personal electronic files of articles of interest. The ability to do this is one that the reader must have acquired prior to use of the electronic journals. Since the amount and helpfulness of instructions for specific journals varies widely, a novice computer user may find the experience of searching for and accessing online journals frustrating or impossible. Obviously someone without any computer experience will need help to use electronic journals.

Readers with computer expertise may also find the experience of accessing online journals frustrating. Network constraints and telecommunication problems abound. Electronic journals that include graphics and sound often are very slow to access. The lack of technical standardization sometimes results in the inability of the reader to access sites. It is not unusual to find the host site not accessible at the time the reader is trying to access it, and if the host site is not current, the ejournal is impossible to access.

User Friendliness

User friendliness varies widely. Although many online journals contain excellent information, the user unfriendliness of some results in the nonuse of the journal. The reader is required to scroll linearly through the article which may create boredom, eyestrain, or discomfort reading the screen. In addition, there are no standard patterns for presentation of information. People who are used to reading print journals may find the lack of conventional presentation troublesome. Frequency of publication and length of articles are considerably different in various online journals. Bishop (1995) reported that the number of scholarly papers published per year in electronic journals ranged from one to twelve. The reader who wants to access a back issue may find the task daunting considering the number of steps required and simplicity of following commands highly variable among journals. User friendliness is also limited by lack of consistency and availability of current and accurate information for subscribing to and retrieving electronic journals (Bishop, 1995). Lastly, readers who are used to marking up copies of print articles may miss this print article advantage. However, they are able to print the electronic articles and mark to their hearts content.


There are financial and time costs related to the use of electronic journals. The user must have a computer monitor, software, service provider and browser.

There are financial and time costs related to the use of electronic journals.

The modem must be at least 56 k and the computer at least 485 or 68040 microcompressor (Doheny, 1999). Doheny's article contains excellent guidelines for computer requirements and selecting a service provider. Clearly, the financial outlay is prohibitive for many people worldwide. The time spent searching for, accessing, and reading electronic journals must be considered. Time commitments for novice computer and network users will be considerable in the beginning. Experienced computer and network users may also spend excessive amounts of time when accessing electronic journals. Although the ability to link to other sources can be quite beneficial, it is not unusual to spend far more time on the computer accessing interesting links. Time can also slip away responding to queries, talking on listserves, or joining chatrooms.

Lack of Accessibility

User demographics suggest that there is not equal access to online journals. Miller (1996) reported that the 4th www user survey of over 23,000 users found 76.2% from the United States, 70.7% male, average income US $63,000 and average age 32.7 years old. These finding suggest that online journals are less accessible to those outside the United States, females, low income families, and older adults (who did not grow up with computers and must learn computer skills from scratch). Murray & Anthony (1999) reported that few nurses in the United Kingdom and Europe have access to the World Wide Web. It is estimated that a maximum of 15% of nurses in the United Kingdom have such access. Murray & Anthony (1999) also report that those countries accessing journals are those with high connectivity and that there is a low user base in many countries outside of the United States. Low use may also relate to the nonuse of English as a second language. Accessibility is also severely limited because electronic journals are not indexed in standard sources of indexing and abstracting. The reader is therefore limited by the personal ability to independently search the World Wide Web for electronic publications. The search is made more difficult because access modes vary.

Misconduct and security issues

Although there are misconduct and security issues with print journals, there is a heightened fear of this with electronic journals. Publishers and authors are concerned about falsification of information, piracy, and plagiarism. Electronic publication enables the reader to easily download an article or dataset. Consequently, the reader can easily "edit" plagiarize, copy the entire document, or change the actual article, image or data (Tenopir, 1995). Rosenberg(1994) believes that electronic publication will destroy copyright as we know it.

Lack of widespread acceptance within the scientific community

The wide variability in quality of articles in electronic journals has resulted in lack of general acceptance of the scientific merit of articles published in online journals. This is due to the fact that only some of the articles are peer reviewed. Jones & Cook (2000) provide a compelling argument that the same peer review standards used in print journals can and should be applied to electronic journals. Shamp (1992) found that 77% of assistant, associate, and full professors didn't think that their institutions would accept electronic publications as evidence of scholarly productivity. Although electronic journals are not as widely accepted as print journals as evidence of scholarly productivity at the present time, there has been a significant change with more widespread acceptance of scholarly electronic publications as seen in Schloman (2000).

Advantages and Disadvantages of Print Journals

Print journals are advantageous compared to electronic journals, particularly for those with no access to computers and service providers or lacking in the prerequisite skills to search and access electronic publications. Advantages of print journals are user friendliness and acceptance within the scientific community.

Advantages of Print Journals

User friendliness. Use of print journals only requires the ability to read and understand the language and no computer skills are required. Since print journals have been the medium that has been used for over five centuries, readers are comfortable with the format and display features including page layout, print quality, text structure, formatting features, table of contents and page numbers (Bishop, 1995). Familiarity with print journals facilitates, the ease of reading of the actual article. Scholars can easily create individualized files of journal articles. Of course, the articles can be "marked up" as the reader desires. The regularity by which print journals are published is established by each journal and are well known by the readers. Readers can thus count on the publication of print journals at the specified times, unlike many electronic publications where the timetables are more fluid.

Widespread acceptance within the scientific community. Print journals have widespread acceptance within the scientific community as a result of five centuries of established rules of engagement. These rules include "standards by which to judge the quality of editorial content, to differentiate author from shill, editorial from advertising, education from promotion, evidence from opinion, science from hype (Silberg, Lundberg, & Musacchio, 1997, p 2). Print journals have served over time as the mechanism where by authenticity is guaranteed and work is preserved for the future (Bishop, 1995).

Disadvantages of Print Journals

There are disadvantages associated with print journals including cost, dissemination, user friendliness, lack of communication and collaboration, and lack of facilitation of scholarly work.

Cost. The costs of print journals has been rising exponentially. Subscription prices to individuals and libraries are soaring (Clement, 1994) as paper, ink and mailing expenses have risen. Individual scholars with limited financial resources, and limited access to libraries may not be able to access relevant print journals. The explosive growth in information production, along with the publication of the material in print journals has created a major problem for libraries as the cost of maintaining journal collections has skyrocketed. The cost of maintaining journal collections and archiving past collections is significant. Although not cited frequently as a disadvantage of print journals, the proliferation of paper is environmentally destructive.

Dissemination. The process from print article submission, to review of articles, to production and dissemination of the articles is slow. This has major implications for the inability of readers to have up to date information.

User friendliness. Although print journals are usually user friendly, for those who do not use English as a first or second language, print articles may be incomprehensible. Translation into the reader's native tongue requires obtaining a hardcopy of the article and translation services. This is much more difficult to accomplish than using translation software that is sometimes available for online publications.

Lack of communication and collaboration. Communication within print journals is usually limited to "letters to the editor" and are a one time response. The space requirements of print journals also limit continuing dialog. Print journals offer far less opportunity for communication and collaboration than electronic journals. Letters to the editor appear months after the initial article was presented and readers may not have easy access to the article that is discussed in the letter.

Lack of facilitation of scholarly work. One of the most important criteria for assessing the impact of scholarly work in academe is the number and sources of citations to one's scientific work. The scholar is able to ascertain other scholars use of their work through their publications via standard indexing sources. However, it is impossible to document the readership of specific print journal articles. This contrasts with electronic journal articles where number of readers of specific articles, as well as amount of time spent reading the articles, can be identified.

Predictions for the Future

Electronic journals have evolved rapidly during the last 10 years. Miller (1996) stated "Electronic publication ten years from now, just like everything else related to computers, will probably bear little resemblance to anything that exists today" (pp 9-10). Although we are certain that there will be numerous unpredictable advances, there are some predictions for the future, delineated in the paragraphs below, that seem likely in the authors' opinions.

First we predict that the evolution of electronic journals will continue to progress rapidly with the majority of publications becoming fully interactive.

Readers will routinely enjoy timely animated graphics, sounds, moving images and aesthetically pleasing formats.

First we predict that the evolution of electronic journals will continue to progress rapidly with the majority of publications becoming fully interactive. Multimedia features will cease to be limited by the user's equipment and services. Readers will routinely enjoy timely animated graphics, sounds, moving images and aesthetically pleasing formats.

Another feature of electronic publications that will grow is the collaboration between readers and authors. This will be accomplished via hosting listserves or chatrooms including datasets and posting interchanges between publishers, authors and readers from the time of article submission and publication. Tenopir (1995) suggests that the electronic journal could include all evolving versions of the article from first submission to revised version including referee's comments, criticisms, accolades and suggestions from readers, and retractions, corrections or rebuttals from the authors.

The role of the publisher of electronic journals is likely to change. Publishers will cater to individuals by providing personalized information of interest from a variety of sources rather than printing a specific journal. There will be fewer commercial publishers because more individuals and groups will self publish. Whoever takes on the publisher's role will be bombarded by requests to advertise due to the profile of the World Wide Web users as good potential consumers with disposable incomes. Whereas publishers need a revenue source, the lure of big money for advertising in electronic journals will be very tempting. We believe that an increasing number of online journals will be subsidized through advertisements. Although most electronic journals are free today, we believe that there will be some cost for them in the future. This may be through a flat yearly charge for the journal, charge for the article(s) accessed, or charge for the amount of time spent on the journal site.

Lastly, electronic journals will gain widespread acceptance within the scientific community. This will be accomplished as the same process of peer review of scientific print articles is applied to electronic journal articles. It is conceivable that electronic publication may be deemed superior to print journals due to the increased communication between publishers, authors and readers with the communication being visible and available for scrutiny and review. In addition, electronic journals may be preferable to print journals in specific disciplines, such as physics, molecular biology and music, due to the audiovisual capabilities of electronic journals which include multidimensional representation and sound.

The issue of accessibility related to the cost of computers, software, browsers and service providers will remain a serious issue, despite the fact that computers and service providers are getting cheaper. The gap between the "haves" and "have nots" will continue to grow because poverty is still a major problem domestically and internationally. We are hopeful that clinical settings, libraries, community centers, schools and other service settings will provide equipment and services to those who cannot afford them on their own so that electronic journals are truly available to everyone.


Ruth Ludwick PhD, RN, C

Ruth Ludwick PhD, RN is an Associate Professor at Kent State University College of Nursing, Kent, OH, and teaches across the curriculum in both the graduate and undergraduate programs. She has numerous publications and has presented nationally and internationally. Her scholarship is focused in the areas of gerontology, patient confusion, and teaching.

Dr. Ludwick was among the group of faculty that initiated the Online Journal of Issues in Nursing. As the Journal's Associate Editor, she develops the hypertext links and serves as coordinator for the ethics column.

Greer Glazer PhD, RN, CNP, FAAN

Gleer Glazer received her BSN from the University of Michigan and her MSN and PhD in Nursing from Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, CaseWestern Reserve University. She is Professor and Director of Parent Child Nursing at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. Dr. Glazer is a recognized nurse researcher in women's health and stress, an expert in nursing health care policy and is a certified Women's Health Nurse Practitioner. She has served on the American Nurses Association Political Action Committee, the Ohio Nurses Association Political Action Committee and numerous local boards. She has been the Legislative Editor of OJIN since its inauguration.



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© 2000 Online Journal of Issues in Nursing
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Citation: Ludwick, R., Glazer, G. (Jan. 31, 2000): Electronic Publishing: The Movement From Print To Digital Publication Online Journal of Issues in Nursing. Vol. 5, No. 1, Manuscript 2.