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The current status of print scholarly journals is that they are a mature technology in terms of their production and distribution systems. The trend in print journals has been steadily in the direction of specialisation, with a doubling time in the number of journals on the order of 15 years [Price, 1963]. While it is difficult to be precise there are probably between 70,000 and 80,000 scholarly journals (depending on the definition) currently in print [Rowland et al., 1995, p. 1]. The EBSCO Subscription Services database of serials titles includes more than 256,000 listings [Ketcham and Born, 1996].
Journals are an integral part of the scholarly communication and reward system [Okerson, 1996, p. 195], with promotion and tenure at many universities in the developed world largely dependent on a scholar's publishing record (however in the humanities there is a still a greater emphasis on book publishing). In the United States, the number of articles published "has increased from 208,000 in 1960 or 382,000 in 1977 to 601,000 in 1990" [King and Griffiths, 1995, p. 715], although this largely reflects increases in the population of authors. Print journals are also big business for some publishers, with some journal subscriptions costing more than $10,000/year.
David Kronick has argued that the changes in the scientific periodical have not been "commensurate with the changes in the complexity and the organization of science that have occurred in science that have occurred in the ensuing centuries" [Kronick, 1976, p. 286]. He argues that the periodical has always been forced to play a double role, "that of a repository for information and as a vehicle for the dissemination of knowledge" [Kronick, 1976, p. 286] and that this is an impossible task which is now threatening the journal with breakdown.
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