23:3 (2008:09) 23rd Conference (2008): Strategy Session: Managing Divergence of Print and Electronic Journals

August 26, 2008 at 12:11 pm | Posted in Strategy Sessions | Leave a comment


Managing Divergence of Print and Electronic Journals
Beth West and Deena Acton, National Library of Medicine
Reported by Sharon Hybki Kerr

Beth Weston and Deena Acton presented an informative session on the trend of content divergence between print and electronic editions of serials; the role of the National Library of Medicine (NLM) as a National Library; and how that divergence is impacting the library’s collection, operations, and services.

Beth Weston began the discussion by giving a brief history of the National Library of Medicine and the interdivisional working group that NLM established to examine an increasing trend of some publishers issuing electronic-only content.  The working group issued a recommendation that later led to a study, undertaken in early 2008, to compare the exact coverage of a set of print and electronic journals.   Brenda Linares, an NLM associate fellow, worked with Beth and Deena to develop and implement the study.

The presenters posed five questions in analyzing the study results.  The questions explored the difference between the print and electronic editions of journals and how the library needs to address these differences:

1.    How are differences discovered?
2.    How is information about differences recorded?
3.    What are the differences and how prevalent are they?
4.    How do content differences impact the ability to provide ILL services?
5.    How do content differences impact NLM’s ability to maintain a complete archive?

Through these questions, they detailed the results of the study and explored the differences between print and electronic editions and the impact on library collections and services.

The study included 149 titles from the collection that met the following criteria: the titles were indexed in MEDLINE; at least one issue of the title had electronic-only content; and both print and electronic editions of the titles were currently published.  The journals were primarily in English, but the sample included titles in several foreign languages. The study looked at all of the titles in the sample, specifically examining the last issue published in 2007. The same issue of each title in both print and electronic editions was checked.  For each issue, data was collected on the number of articles in each issue; editorials; commentary and letters; book and media reviews; commercial ads; classified ads; announcements and calendar items; and continuing medical education materials.  They shared the results of the study through a series of slides.  A few of the interesting discoveries of the study included:  no cases occurred where articles were included in the print edition but not included in the electronic edition; the number of electronic-only articles per issue varied from 1 to 52;  and commercial advertising was the only area where substantially more content was contained in the print version than the electronic.

Although the sample size was relatively small, the results suggest the potential scope of the problem, including the impact on library collections and services.  The study showed that dual publishing with divergent content is not limited to a particular segment of the publishing market or to a particular subscription model.  Publishers are following a variety of models in publishing print and electronic content.

The speakers concluded by highlighting the impact of content divergence on the medical library community and NLM staff and budget.  In addition, since the dual format of serials with divergent content may be with us for the foreseeable future, the overall library community needs to respond. Standards need to be developed to identify which edition is the version of record, along with continuing efforts to negotiate license terms for electronic journals that include the same interlibrary loan rights as print, and publishers and library communities working together to address these challenges.

Following the presentation, there were a number of questions from the audience, including how to work with publishers to obtain expanded interlibrary loan rights, how NLM was working with publishers, and the role of subscription agents or vendors.


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