|High Energy Physics Libraries Webzine|
Issue 2 / October 2000
This evaluation and the selection between these two kinds of resource are, for libraries, a very actual problem: in the period of transition in which we are living it isn't always simple to interpret in the right way the demands of our users and to find the most appropriate tools to satisfy them.
Electronic journals are an indispensable means for the transmission of knowledge but have not yet properly affirmed themselves and have characteristics that are not completely defined; and librarians, having to reconcile the demands of the users with the budget of the library, need more and more objective elements of evaluation that give them the possibility of underlining the qualities and deficiencies of this kind of publication. Otherwise the risk is to accept as unquestionable truth opinions that in fact need to be checked: it is true, for example, that electronic journals offer more timeliness in their publication, but it is useful to quantify it; it is also known that electronic journals offer search tools that go beyond simple index browsing, but in a way that can change from one publisher to another; it is clear that access to articles published in an electronic journal is simpler than that to articles published in a print journal, but this is not always the case.
On the basis of these observations we analysed the most important characteristics of electronic and print journals, using the physics journals at the library of the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa.
We took into consideration 54 titles freely accessible in their electronic version  to the subscribers to the print edition. This is, of course, a limited sample, but we think it is sufficient to give an idea of what we can obtain from this kind of publication.
Twelve publishers of physics e-journals were taken into consideration
in this study: American Institute of Physics (13 titles), American Physical
Society (6 titles), Blackwell (1 title), Cambridge University Press (2
titles), EDP Sciences (6 titles), Elsevier (8 titles), Institute of Physics
(8 titles), Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (1 title), Società
Italiana di Fisica (2 titles), Springer (3 titles), University of Chicago
Press (3 titles), Wiley (1 title).
From our research we found a perfect correspondence between what is published in the electronic edition and what is published in the paper edition; also the errata are published in a subsequent issue, exactly as happens for the print version, without correcting the mistakes at the origin. One of the main peculiarities of the digital world is, in fact, the possibility of correcting or modifying what has already been published, but this possibility can cause some differences between the print publication, that is unchangeable, and the electronic version, causing problems for the philology of the electronic text.
We would expect, in the case of the errata, a link that leads the reader from the wrong text to the correct version.
The full text of the articles is available in different formats according
to the publishing house or, within the same publishing house, according
to the publication:
|HTML, Sectioned HTML, PDF, Gzipped PS||2|
|PDF, Gzipped PS||11|
|American Physical Society||PDF, Gzipped PS (recent issues); Page images (GIF), PDF, ASCII Text (old issues)||5|
|PDF, Gzipped PS||1|
|Cambridge University Press||2|
|EDP Sciences||HTML, PDF, PS||2|
|Institute of Physics
|PDF, PS, HTML||4|
|Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences||1|
|Società Italiana di Fisica||PS, Gzip, PDF||2|
|Springer||HTML, PDF, PS||1|
|University of Chicago Press||PDF, PS||3|
It is relevant that most of the publishers we took into consideration
offer their articles in PDF, followed by a HTML or PS version; it seems
that, nowadays, the Portable Document Format is the most common format
for this kind of publication.
|American Institute of Physics||1985-||1|
|American Physical Society||1985-||4|
|Cambridge University Press||1997-||2|
|Institute of Physics||1993-||8|
|Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences||1997-||1|
|Società italiana di fisica||1997-||2|
|University of Chicago Press||1995-||1|
Summing up, five journals are available from 1985, nine from 1993, two from 1994, four from 1995, seven from 1996, fourteen from 1997, eleven from 1998, two from 2000.
Considering that, according to the needs expressed by our users, the
core of the issues necessary for their studies and research is constituted
by the last ten-fifteen years, the availability of back years is for the
most part inadequate.
We verified the offer of each publisher analysed in our study; typically
they provide two possibilities, browsing and searching, but each publisher
is characterized by some peculiarities, as we can see in the following.
|Cambridge Univ. Press||
|Elsevier||Elsevier Science, Nuclear Physics electronic
or Condensed Matter web offer slightly different search possibilities:
|Institute of Physics||
|Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences||
|Società italiana difisica||Only browse|
|University of Chicago Press||
Among the additional services that we found during our study, the following are the most important:
Nevertheless, up until now the e-journals that we took into consideration have kept the same structure as their print version, offering the advantage of a big advance in the publication time.
From a title-by-title comparison between the most recent issue available
in electronic version and the most recent issue of the corresponding paper
edition arriving at our library (made on June 13th, 2000) we
found the following situation: an absolute equality
in 12 cases; one issue more in the electronic version in 22 cases; two
issues more in the electronic version in 8 cases; three issues more in
the electronic version in 8 cases; four issues more in the electronic version
in 3 cases; eight issues more in the electronic version in 1 case. It is
important also to underline that in some cases it is possible now to consult
electronically some of the articles that will be published in forthcoming
The case histories change from a total absence of terms and conditions of use by the Società Italiana di Fisica, to the conciseness of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences ("the use of any information supplied is limited to viewing, downloading for temporary storage and printing by authorised users"), to the meticulous description of terms and conditions prepared carefully by most of the other publishers, that analyse in all details the various permitted uses and prohibited uses.
The greatest problems, in these cases, come from the comprehension of the terms, not always simple; from the lack of uniformity of the clauses, that can change considerably from one publisher to the other; from the real possibility to let the users know the permitted uses and the prohibited uses; and from the responsibility of the libraries for the violations committed by their users.
Particularly penalizing is the prohibition, that some publishers impose
on libraries, from transmitting to other libraries by way of ILL/DD the
articles published electronically. The Institutional user licence of the
AIP asserts: "systematic or programmatic downloading …, service bureau
redistribution services, printing for fee-for-service purposes and/or systematic
making of print or electronic copies for transmission to non-subscribers
or non-subscribing institutions (such as in interlibrary loan) are prohibited";
according to the American Physical Society licence "such copies [of
the output of any search] may not be sold and may not be distributed to
anyone who is not a subscriber"; Blackwell enables users to transmit
the articles, on condition that they are printed, only to the authorized
users; according to Cambridge University Press licence "users are not
permitted to … transmit any part of the Materials by any means to any unauthorised
user"; EDP Sciences allows one to make "one hard copy of the output
of any search; such copies may be shared with nonauthorized users to the
same extent as the print edition, provided such sharing is for the purpose
of scholarly communication or educational use and there are no commercial
benefits"; Elsevier drastically leaves out the transmission of the
materials: "you or your organization agree that any other uses, and
specifically renting, re-distributing, re-transmitting,
sub-leasing, assigning, … , are prohibited, and that you will not make
the products or services available to non-authorized persons"; IOP
consents to the ILL: "no text accessed via the Service may be available
to non-authorized users … except to the extent that a single paper copy
of an electronic original or of a print edition could be made so available
by way of inter-library loan …"; the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences,
as we have already seen, allows only "viewing, downloading for temporary
storage and printing by authorised users"; the Società Italiana
di Fisica does not provide for terms and conditions of use; Springer does
not permit "the transfer of the data in whole or in part … as well as
granting access to the stored data to third parties"; according to
the University of Chicago Press "a user may transmit a hard copy or
electronic copy of an article to any individual who is not an authorized
user under this license provided such transmission is (i) not for compensation,
(ii) for purposes of scholarly exchange of ideas, and (iii) not part of
any systematic provision of journal content to such user or persons affiliated
with such user"; according to Wiley "authorized users may transmit
to a third-party colleague in hard copy or electronically a single article
or item from Wiley InterScience for personal use or scholarly, educational
or scientific research or professional use but not for re-sale".
In all the cases that we took into consideration access is based on IP address recognition, and it is guaranteed as long as the subscription to the paper edition continues (the only exception is the Società Italiana di Fisica, that asks for a new registration every year): when the librarian has registered the library for access, users can consult the e-journals they are interested in with a simple click, without username and password. The differences concern the regularity of the service, the frequency of its possible interruption and the quality of the assistance that is offered by the publisher.
In consideration of the importance of e-journals as a fundamental tool for physics scholars, we can easily imagine the damage (and the consequent disappointment) that breaks in access to the full text cause to our users; and in fact it is difficult to accept the idea to have at hand (or, better, at a click) the article that we need without being able to get it.
Therefore we need to verify which are the real causes of these troubles, with what frequency they affect our libraries, if they are uniformly distributed among the various publishers, and what we can do to improve the situation.
According to our experience (supported by the exchange of opinions with several colleagues of other Italian and foreign libraries) the regularity of the service is normally very good; the only exception is represented by the e-journals of the American Institute of Physics and the American Physical Society, that very often suffer groundless access interruptions. 
We tried to identify the most frequent causes of this problem; essentially they are:
These problems, together with those not yet solved of archiving, of
access to the full text after cancellation of the subscription, of terms
and conditions of use imposed by the publishers through the licences, and
of the dislike that some users feel towards electronic
resources, remain open and limit the complete success of e-journals also
within those subjects, such as physics, that are particularly attracted
by the advantages that e-journals offer; librarians and publishersmust
co-operate in solving them, in order to favour not only the interests of
the scholars, but also their own.
References and notes
 Aditi Bandyopadhyay, Heting Chu, Electronic journals versus print journals: an evaluation framework, in National online meeting proceedings 1999: proceedings of the 20th National online meeting, New York, May 18-20, 1999, Medford, Information Today, c1999.
 The journals are: Applied Physics Letters; Astronomy and Astrophysics; Astronomy and Astrophysics Review; Astronomy and Astrophysics. Supplement Series; Astronomy Reports; Astrophysical Journal; Astrophysical Journal. Letters; Astrophysical Journal. Supplement Series; Classical and Quantum Gravity; Communications in Mathematical Physics; Computer Physics Communications; European Physical Journal. Applied Physics; European Physical Journal. B, Condensed Matter; European Physical Journal. C, Particles and Fields; European Physical Journal. D, Atoms, Molecules and Clusters; Europhysics Letters; Fortschritte der Physik; JETP Letters; Journal of Applied Physics; Journal of Experimental and Theoretical Physics; Journal of Fluid Mechanics; Journal of Mathematical Physics; Journal of Physics. A, Mathematical and General; Journal of Physics. B, Atomic and Molecular Physics; Journal of Physics. Condensed Matter; Journal of Physics. G, Nuclear and Particle Physics; Journal of Plasma Physics; Journal of Vacuum Science and Technology. A, Vacuum, Surfaces and Films; Journal of Vacuum Science and Technology. B, Microelectronics Processing and Phenomena; Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society; Nuclear Physics. A; Nuclear Physics. B; Il Nuovo Cimento. B; Il Nuovo Cimento. C; Physica. E, Low-dimensional Systems and Nanostructures; Physica Scripta; Physical Review. A; Physical Review. B; Physical Review. C; Physical Review. D; Physical Review. E; Physical Review Letters; Physics of Fluids; Physics Letters. A; Physics Letters. B; Physics of Plasmas; Physics Reports; Plasma Physics and Controlled Fusion; PlasmaPhysics Reports; Reports on Progress in Physics; Reviews of Modern Physics; Semiconductor Science and Technology; Semiconductors; Solid State Communications.
The whole list of the e-journals accessible from the domain of Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa is available at the URL http://biblio.sns.it/ejourn1.htm.
 Christine Baldwin, Electronic journal publishing: meeting user needs, "IFLA journal", 25 (1999) n.4, p.214.
 We hope that these statements, based on our experience
at the Library of Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa, will be considered
a constructive criticism, and not a sterile polemic: the electronic journals
published by AIP and APS are so important that the solution of these problems
would be welcomed by all physicists.
I wish to thank Elena Pellini for her help in the preparation of
Biblioteca. Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa
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