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Here are some contentions.

  1. Publication is gradually moving on-line, and this process will continue until print publication is rather rare.
  2. Publication on CD-ROMs is a temporary phenomenon, because on-line is better.
  3. The pace of publication going on-line depends partly on both technological and economic factors. Here are some.
    1. The arrival of the display that can be read on the beach and also in the bathtub.
    2. The development of a radio system that permits downloading reading material anywhere in the world--indoors or out.
    3. The development of a standardized system for paying for reading copyrighted material.
    4. Since on-line publication is much cheaper than print publication, many organizations dependent on print publication will inevitably be reduced in personnel. These people will have to find jobs elsewhere in the economy. Eventually, this down-sizing will affect libraries as well as publishers. It is important that the down-sizing not be blocked by the establishment of monopolies motivated by the preservation of particular kinds of jobs.

    However, the present technology and economic situation is already adequate for a large expansion of on-line publication, and it is already taking place.

  4. The current system of paper scientific publication is a great drag on the integration of countries into the world scientific system that cannot afford spending millions of dollars per year per first rate scientific libraries. Even with rich countries like the U.S., many institutions cannot afford first class libraries. The commercial scientific publishers offer the greatest problems, but the scientific societies are only about a factor of two better.
  5. On-line scientific publications can be supported entirely by page charges to the authors' institutions and be entirely free to readers. The cost will be only a small fraction of the cost of the research that gives rise to the publication. Exceptions can be made for unsupported research and research from poor countries. $100 per page should be more than adequate for journals where the articles do not require professional editing for the insertion of pictorial material.
  6. Present scientific publishers and their employees will resist going on line, because it will greatly reduce the need for their services, although it seems that some need for professional editing will be required. Their idea is that on-line services will be value-added services to print publication, so they will get more money rather than less. I think competition with journals that are on-line from the beginning will demonstrate that this idea is not viable.
  7. Editing for on-line reading is likely to be an art rather different from editing for print publication. It can use color and Web links to good advantage, and it can put up additional windows, for example with terminology and definitions. It may be that professional on-line editors will be able to do such a good job at this as will justify the cost of their employment.
  8. It seems unlikely that print publishers will be able to advocate legal barriers to on-line publication, although they may defend copyrights they presently hold.
  9. Publishers have always opposed the notion of fair use, and have consistently maintained that there is no fair use on line. There haven't been any lawsuits about this yet, so we don't know what the courts will presume.
  10. Scientists should defend at least the following concept of fair use. An author who has not been paid for an article should be able to keep a copy on a publicly available, free Web page without any interference from the publisher.
  11. Scientists should insist on retaining copyright to their own published scientific papers. Journals should merely get ``permission to publish''. In fact, authors who insist on this are generally successful. Allowing authors to retain copyright is an explicit official policy of the American Mathematical Society. (Assigning copyright to the Society is also an option). Scientific societies, e.g. AAAI and ECAI, should adopt this policy,
  12. Authors may want to keep papers on their home sites. If they do, research announcment journals will become more important.

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John McCarthy
Mon May 20 17:24:22 PDT 1996