The new technology will first take over technical, professional, and business knowledge databases, and technical, scientific, and academic journals for doctors, lawyers, executives, financial analysts, dentists, scientists, engineers, technicians, and the professoriat. These people have the need, the money, the expertise, and the technical infrastructure to support the technological thrust in the early days.
Already MathReviews exists on disc and it is an enormous improvement over paper. In 1990, researchers had to wade through several heavy 1,000-page books full of fine print, imperfectly indexed and cross-referenced by humans, and out of date because of the delay. In 1991, these same researchers could search the entire corpus of published papers--including abstracts, reviews, comments, and other information not previously included in MathReviews because of bulk--for arbitrary patterns in seconds.
They no longer even have to go to the library, they can access it remotely from their home computers. And they no longer have to use the service during library hours; they can access it at any time. Further, the library no longer has to find space for many years worth of 1,000-page MathReviews; they have to keep only one or two small discs. Finally, the discs are cheaper than the books they replace. Eventually libraries will not even have to buy the discs since a few cheap computers could supply the same information over the phone to the entire world.
Soon universities will start publishing their own electronic journals. Already publications of the American Chemical Society, the American Mathematical Society, the American Psychological Association, the Association for Computing Machinery, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, McGraw-Hill, and Elsevier Science Publishers, are available electronically [44,52]. The European Economic Community and the U.S. Office of Technology Assessment are sponsoring future projects .
Already the Harvard Business Review is available electronically (there is still a paper version), and the American Association for the Advancement of Science is publishing the Online Journal of Current Clinical Trials to be released April, 1992 . Academic libraries will clamor for electronic versions of all journals, even if publishers also produce paper versions. Currently, university libraries have to devote increasing amounts of shelf space and over half their budgets to journals. The number of academic journals is doubling every 5 years, and subscription costs, already high, continue to rise by 10 percent every year.
Full-color professional magazines charge advertisers to pay authors, publish 10 to 12 times a year, and cost consumers $4 to $6 per issue. Black-and-white academic journals charge authors to pay printers, publish 4 to 6 times a year, and cost libraries $25 to $400 per issue. Electronic journals would be cheaper for everyone: publishers, libraries, and readers. They would also be easier to archive, catalog, and search, less bulky, more flexible, more expandable, timelier, and larger than paper journals.
The business community is even more ready to pay a lot for precious information. In most corporations middle management plays the part of ferrets, mapmakers, and filters for senior management. But paper reports are hard to search, index, compare, and collate. Further, once a fact, a table, a report, is committed to paper it is fixed; it cannot be displayed in alternate and perhaps more accessible forms, like histograms, pie charts, and graphs. A table listing country populations alphabetically by country is hard to use when we want to know the top 50 populations.
In 1986 GTE executives could not easily find information in their own 200-page financial reports. GTE spent 6 weeks and $14,000 to create an Apple HyperCard system that let executives keep informed about their own business . Ideally, hypertext should let users chart their own course through the data; text versus hypertext is like taking a train versus driving a car. Soon after GTE adopted the system its president demanded all reports this way instead of formal presentations from middle management.
Dow Jones charges $19,600 a year for its CD/Newsline subscription service: monthly mailings of discs containing public information about the financial performance of various companies . Dow Vision delivers news and market information direct to users' computers for $1,000 a month . Perhaps they get away with these prices because of the business community's ignorance of what is possible and what it costs to attain, and the publishing industry's ignorance of the demand for timely, high-quality, and electronically-accessible product.