Professor Sir Brian K Follett
A key element in the British programme on electronic libraries (eLib) has been to develop electronic journals, and in 1995 much effort has been devoted to getting the first of them to the starting line. There are many reasons as to why electronic journals cause excitement: they offer new ways of publishing scholarly material and for linking this material to existing databases; they offer faster publication; they will be available worldwide to persons without a major research library to hand but with access to the Internet; finally, the new technology may well reverse the spiral of ever-increasing serial prices that continues to be the largest headach facing libraries around the world. Many may doubt this last statement, but once the genie of a new technology is out of the bottle then it is unstoppable, and it could drive prices downwards as fast as they have risen above the rate of retail price inflation in the past 15 years!
In the past weeks I have gained the strong impression that electronic journals will reach a critical mass during 1996. Commercial and learned society publishers are offering a host of their existing paper journals on the Internet with effect from the New Year, and this will expose them to the winds of fortune, most notably which journals are accessed by the research community and which journals are then used by authors to publish their research work. In many ways, though, a more interesting breed of journal is represented by JILT (Journal of Information, Law and Technology), for here we have a proper electronic journal which jumps straight into the Internet generation and will offer a host of services that should bring readers in large numbers. Not only does it contain scholarly material, but there will be "news and views" and items of value not only to legal researchers but also to students around the world. Quite genuinely, it is a new breakthrough, and I wish it well not only as the Vice-Chancellor at Warwick University but also as one of the persons who has been somewhat involved in the UK's eLib programme.
Best wishes for 1996!