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E-journals make up increasing percentage of UI library materials

BY BETH BRATSOS | FEBRUARY 10, 2012 7:20 AM

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Electronic formats of some scholarly publications may knock the print version out completely, library officials say.

Ed Shreeves, the University of Iowa associate university librarian for collections and scholarly communication, said UI Libraries are usually no longer getting the print equivalent of electronic versions of materials, partly because of increased certainty in the longevity of electronic formats.

UI Libraries spends more than 70 percent of its materials budget on electronic materials; that figure was approximately 42 percent spent in fiscal 2005.

"When electronic formats first started coming out, libraries wanted to get both versions because they were not sure the electronic format would stay around," Shreeves said. "Cost is similar between hard copy and electronic [versions]. What is most expensive is getting both forms at the same time."

He said some specialized journals in academic fields, particularly the sciences, are only published in electronic form, and he wouldn't be surprised if these types of journals cease to be available in print over the next 10 to 15 years. But there are some cases in which print versions might still be purchased.

"Subscriptions [to certain journals] only give us access to part of those journals," he said. "In cases like that, we would typically try to continue getting a version of the journal in paper as well. Something we could provide to users in the case we would cancel the subscription."

Steven Sowards, assistant director for collections at Michigan State University, said its libraries are also strongly moving in the direction of electronic materials, particularly in scholarly articles and publications. In recent years, Michigan State libraries spent more than 70 percent of its entire materials budget on electronic formats, a huge jump from the 10 percent spent 10 years ago, he said.
In some cases, the paper version is not purchased.

"We get [some] science journals pretty much exclusively in 'E,' " he said. "We have what are called 'Big Deals.' For libraries and publishers, a 'Big Deal' means you have a licensed subscription to get all titles published by one publisher."

The University of Wisconsin-Madison libraries spend more than 50 percent of its budgets on electronic materials, according to library officials.

Ed Van Gemert, interim director of libraries at Wisconsin, said the university sees the trend of faculty and students wanting and needing electronic resources.

He said Wisconsin is part of a group of institutions working with Macmillan in a pilot test of the use of electronic textbooks.

"We are working with six classes on campus this semester to determine whether there is a cost saving and what learning outcome differences [there] might be between electronic textbooks and printed," he said.

He said there are also challenges that come with the 'E' trend.

"Library budgets have not kept pace with the need [for electronic formats]," he said. "People want more and more, [but] unfortunately we are not able to provide everything people want."

UI computer-science Associate Professor Doug Jones has been publishing scholarly articles since the late-70s and first began publishing fiction pieces in 2004. He said reputable journals in the computer-science field allow authors to put copies of their work on their own websites, resulting in an expectation that as soon as things appear in print, the online version will also appear.

"I think we need both. It's not a case of either/or," he said. "For casual journalism, [like] daily papers, I can't stand online environments. For research, I can't live without them."


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