By Ruth Murray

As recently as 1990 the World Wide Web did not exist, and email was still difficult to use. Even the most optimistic experts could hardly foresee how rapidly the technology and the software would advance. Electronic publishing, or e-publishing, uses the internet to deliver scientific articles and other content to readers.

But e-publications are not just electronic versions of paper publications – they can be designed solely and specifically for electronic dissemination. Because the technology allows publishers to get information to readers quickly and efficiently, it is causing major changes to the publishing industry, and even has an impact on the way we read.

Pros:

  • Open access;
  • Rapid publication;
  • Lower costs;
  • High visibility and international readership;
  • Links to articles referenced and later articles that cite the paper;
  • Unlimited space for figures, extensive data and even video footage;
  • May reduce publication bias; and
  • Articles can be widely promoted on websites and by email alerts, etc.

Cons:

  • Perceived lack of credibility compared with paper publications, although this is rapidly changing
  • Some e-publication houses do not have an adequate peer review process
  • Archiving – will these e-publications still be around years from now or will they be lost forever?

Is the end in sight for paper publications? We’re only just beginning to see the effects of e-publishing, and the advantages seem so far to outweigh the disadvantages.