Print versus electronic journals

Print versus electronic journals


In a previous article, we covered the topic of how to publish a journal or book online. Digital platforms speed up the publishing process, lower production costs and allow for fast updates, corrections and revisions. Yet, in our new media age, there is still an audience for print journals. 

Print journals have been around for a long time, with Philosophical Transactions, launched in 1665 by the Royal Society, being the world’s first and longest-running scientific journal. It was later split in two publications, one dedicated to physical sciences and one to life sciences. Print versions are still available and advertised on their website as great teaching resources.

Print journals

Established print journals are well known and highly regarded. For societies, printed publications confer a more tangible presence and prestige – members are sure to appreciate a well-bound publication sent in the post, rather than yet another email with a link to a digital publication. It is also a great way to keep in touch with members and send regular communications by post.

The disadvantage for authors is that less people will read your work, unless the printed journal has a large circulation. The reach might be geographically limited and they might not appeal to readers who prefer to browse information online.

Print journals may have slower response times. It might take a long time to find out if your paper is accepted or rejected and, if successful, it might take up to a year to see it printed. 

Electronic journals
Online journals or e-journals are growing rapidly and open-access ones offer content free of charge to readers. Links can be shared with colleagues, other academics and the world via email or social media channels.

Electronic journals offer extra audio and visual options, increasing their accessibility. They may have additional features such as links to other articles, keywords, interactive citations, multimedia components and the option to download as a PDF.

Submissions are often processed faster and an article can be published in a matter of days, as we have seen with many Covid-19 papers.

Making your choice: print or electronic journals?

Choosing between a print and an electronic journal depends on your needs. The quality of content should be the same regardless of the publication method. Some academics might worry that e-journals are likely to be less permanent than printed ones. Others think that printed journals might not be diffusing their work as widely as electronic publications. Most established journals offer both options.

Pros of online journals:

  • They can be read remotely on a variety of devices – no need to visit a library.
  • They are more accessible for people with disabilities or sight issues.
  • Articles can be searched by keyword.
  • Navigation tools allow readers to jump to particular sections.
  • They might have extra content that is not included in a print version – movies, sound and interactive graphics.
  • When a journal offers both options, papers are published online first.
  • They might be cheaper to purchase by libraries.

 Pros of print journals

  • Some people find it difficult and/or tiring reading on a screen.
  • They are portable, convenient, do not require a device and are self-archiving.
  • The wider options offered by print graphic design – fonts and layouts – allow for more attractive publications. If the academic field has a strong visual aspect, images look better in print.
  • Some people prefer to search for papers by leafing through a physical item. For long-running journals, older issues are only available in print.
  • Electronic journals require a reliable internet connection – not always stable, fast and secure, particularly in developing countries.
  • Printed journals are considered more permanent and trustworthy – some academics are paper-oriented and concerned about electronic journals’ transient nature.
  • Critics of e-journals think they do not implement strict peer reviews and there is a lack of quality control. The risk of plagiarism is also believed to be higher.

Electronic journals might be prevailing, but there is still demand for print publications, especially for niche subjects and from prestigious societies. Sciendo publishes electronic journals and offers a print-on-demand service for those who prefer reading and circulating a printed journal within their institution or among colleagues from other universities.

Other valuable benefits of the print-on-demand service include displays and take-aways for conferences and symposia, plus the flexibility to print the exact number you need for each specific issue. In addition, there is no need to hold stock or pay for journal issues that might never be needed. Find out more here.

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