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Hypermedia Online Publishing: the Transformation of the Scholarly Journal

5.2.3 Production

In all cases, the technology chosen by publishers for distribution (see see 5.2.5: Distribution and access on page 79) places constraints on what can be represented and how.

At first glance, print publishing might seem to provide few restrictions; multiple fonts, sidebars and images are all possible. However, hyperlinks within the one publication are clumsy, and links (footnotes and citations) to other publications rely on the scholar having ready access to the publications linked to. As well, print is limited to information that can be represented statically on paper. Audio and video are impossible. For most publications, colour still images are technically possible, but prohibitively expensive. However, even relatively cheap print journals will have good resolution text.

Due to current display limitations (see 4.2.2: Multimedia facilities on page 53) any electronic format on a screen (as opposed to printed out by the user) will have inferior resolution to print. Electronic formats may also impose other restrictions.

In the electronic world, Listserv (mailing list) archives are usually restricted to documents in 7-bit ASCII. This is because of the need for such documents to pass through email gateways in transit and because no assumptions can be made about the display device at the other end.

Anonymous File Transfer Protocol (AFTP) archives can be used to store any kind of file. In practice, most e-journals using this technology have tended to use 7-bit ASCII text documents. Some journals are storing articles in richer formats like Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), Postscript or PDF.

Gopher servers can also provide a range of document types, but most e-journals mounted on gopher servers also store documents in 7-bit ASCII text. A wider range of Multipurpose Internet Mail Extension (MIME) types is now supported by available gopher clients and servers - the lack of adoption of this facility to distribute documents in other formats is probably being affected by the general rise in popularity of the Web.

World Wide Web documents are written in HTML. As already discussed, this provides for formatted text, inline graphics, hyperlinks within documents, links to other HTML documents, and links to documents in other formats altogether. However, the scholar writing for the Web needs to be aware that a wide range of browsers will be used to access their work. Not all browsers format HTML in the same way, and the available range of markup tags is restricted, particularly compared to SGML. Typography choices are also limited. Thus a lesser degree of control over the final appearance of the document is inevitable, compared to the richness of print.

PDF is a very good solution for complex electronic documents with a high graphical content or lots of formulæ. An example of a stable of e-journals using PDF is the Cajun Project being developed by the Electronic Publishing Research Group [Smith et al., 1993]. Integration between 'PDF-space' and 'Web-space' is now very good. The latest version of Acrobat provides for links from PDF files to Web documents and the PDF plugin for popular browsers allows for display of PDF files within the browser window.

HTML provides good navigation mechanisms and works well for onscreen reading, but is poor for printing. PDF versions of the articles are difficult to read on the screen (unless specifically designed for it) but provide high-quality printouts for archiving or annotation by the user. The optimal solution is to use the Web to locate, browse and select the articles desired, and print out the PDF versions if required.

Some publishers are now choosing to create a single database of content from which they can generate multiple representations (SGML, HTML, PDF, etc.) as required for output to print or storage on file/web-servers. Such a 'neutral' database can be used to generate complete journal issues, individual articles and current awareness notifications [Campbell et al., 1997].

Last modified: Monday, 18-Sep-2017 03:29:23 AEST

© Andrew Treloar, 2001. * *