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Hypermedia Online Publishing: the Transformation of the Scholarly Journal

3.4.1 Strengths

Print journals (even when bound) are eminently portable, and single articles (photocopies or reprints) are even more so. They can easily be transported from place to place and read wherever the user wishes. A common argument against electronic articles (or books) is that they are restricted by where they can be accessed (the standard form of this argument is expressed in [Valauskas, 1994, p. 45] "We will never1 hear of someone curling up with a good monitor to read in bed").

The resolution of print is excellent, even for what we regard as low print quality. An entry level printer will print at 300 dots per inch (dpi). A normal office quality printer will use 600 dpi. Most journals are printed at 1250 dpi and specialist publications may use 2500 dpi. These resolutions provide crisp type, excellent quality graphics (with no noticeable jaggles on lines) and clear photographs. The contrast between white paper and black type is also excellent.

Paper is almost infinitely annotatable (as anyone who has borrowed a frequently used book from a university library can attest to). Paper journal articles can be highlighted in colours, underlined, have comments and notes scribbled in the margin and have pages dog-eared as a form of bookmark. Paper allows the reader to have a vicarious dialogue with the author through the medium of these annotations. Such annotations have even been proposed as the basis for an ecology of hypertext annotation [Marshall, 1998].

Because of our training in school and at university, print journals have the significant benefit of familiarity. No-one needs to go to full-day training courses held in stuffy rooms with titles like 'Surfing the Scholarly Page'! This familiarity is obvious when one watches someone interact with print. The scholars interviewed by Olsen [Olsen, 1994, pp. 36-38] emphasised the importance of being able to flick through the pages of a journal, quickly scanning tables of contents pages and the text of articles. She argues that scholars are building up a mental model of the context of the material they are reading. She also cites research which suggests that scrolling a long document on a screen interferes with the creation of that context by weakening the visual memory of the location of items on a page. This is sometimes called the 'everything looks the same phenomenon' in the literature dealing with e-journals.

Print has evolved over time a range of navigation supports which scholars use both consciously and unconsciously: tables of contents, indexes, sidebars, layout of pages, even memories of issue covers and typography used. Particular journals have a certain 'look and feel' that their readers become familiar with.

1. The author may well be unusual, but he frequently reads articles in bed on his notebook computer (at least until his wife tells him to shut it down and go to sleep).

Last modified: Monday, 18-Sep-2017 03:29:24 AEST

© Andrew Treloar, 2001. * *