(A slightly belated) welcome to the CCC Online

I meant to post about this earlier in the week, but better late than never: welcome to town, the new CCC Online! I certainly think it’s the right idea and direction for the CCCCs. My copy of the paper version of the journal arrived yesterday (quite a bit fatter than usual too, in part because of the inclusion of Forum, which is a newsletters for non-tenure-track teachers and faculty in composition), and I guess it makes me wonder when College Composition and Communication (the paper journal) and the CCC Online will become one entity.

This might be kind of naive or it might be kind of obvious, but it just seems inevitable to me that academic journals like the CCCs will eventually not be published on paper anymore. I don’t mean this as some pronouncement of the “end of print,” nor do I think that the codex is going to vanish anytime soon. Books are just too convenient of a technology, especially for things like trade books and novels and such. I do think academic book publishers– especially the smaller ones –would be wise to investigate various “print on demand” technologies that make it cost effective to publish a single book, which would thus allow these presses to take on projects that are intellectually important but “impractical” from a sales and marketing point of view. Though this is a slightly different rant.

But I think academic journals are different. I don’t know if I am a typical reader of academic journals or not, but I subscribe to only one (the CCCs) and I do not read that journal all the way through (though, as part of my “new school year resolutions,” I intend to take the time to actually read some of the current scholarship in my field). I am more likely to browse online journals like Kairos, but the way that I usually engage with academic journals is through my research with various electronic search tools– the MLA Bibliography, WilsonSelect, etc. With this research, I do not go and look to read a journal per se; I look to read the article in that journal. Furthermore, if I can find that article electronically (and if it’s a PDF, even better!), then I probably wouldn’t even touch the actual periodical.

So, assuming my way of using periodicals is not too far off from the norm, why not just publish these things electronically? The advantages to web-based academic journals just seem so obvious to me that I don’t understand why paper periodicals haven’t gone to the web. I mean, electronic journals would save a lot of money (because you eliminate the costs of printing, mailing, and storing the paper), they are a lot more flexible (want to include color images with your essay? sound? video? etc.? go ahead!), potentially more interactive (which is what the CCC Online is after, I think), and a lot more accessible.

Without the restraints of print, journals could also eliminate things like maximum page lengths, they wouldn’t need to think in terms of volumes and issue numbers, and they could be a lot more nimble when it comes to bringing things out to readers (though in my experience with electronic journals, both as a writer and as a reviewer of articles, just because they can publish stuff more quickly doesn’t mean they will).

So it just seems to me that merging of College Composition and Communication (the paper publication) and of the CCC Online (the web site) is kind of inevitable. What will be interesting to see how and when we get to that place.

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6 Responses to (A slightly belated) welcome to the CCC Online

  1. Mike says:

    I disagree, Steve, and I wonder if it’s a matter of what is the “norm,” or whether there even is a “norm.” Speaking just for myself, I hate reading on the screen. Anything longer than a couple pages, I really, really need to have it on paper, in my hands. While digital technologies are making it somewhat easier (though they’re still very much in the early stages) to annotate online texts while reading, for me there’s no substitute for the visual cues and flexibility offered by marginal notes or Post-Its on paper. Furthermore, as you note, the paper codex is an immensely convenient form: I can’t read CCCO on the bus or under a tree or in my back yard or waiting in line or in a reception room — and those are places where I like to be able to read. And I’ve discussed this in the past with Dennis re libraries: to me, there’s an immense utitity to the stumbled-across juxtaposed find that journals’ collections of articles and library stacks offer, which the focused nature of online searches — or even browsing — doesn’t approach. In sum: CCC and CCCO offer different affordances and advantages, and a diverse set of possibilities that serve the needs of a diverse audience for whom perhaps there is no single and monolithic “norm” of reading practices. In which case, the diversity of options is a good thing, and reducing those options by merging the journals into a single format would effectively send the message that there’s only one way to read.

  2. John says:

    While I agree with Mike about the physical nature of reading (if/when interactive digital paper becomes inexpensive and widespread — until we solve the issue of screens as projected flickering images, the screen won’t be a great medium for reading, and likewise for the issues of interactivity and portability), I do agree with Steve that print journals are on their way out. Throughout my academic career, I’ve found myself in and out of various library jobs, and from the perspective of librarians, journals are nothing but trouble. Print journals eat up lots of space and lots of money. A lot of libraries have put in place a moratorium on adding to the number of print journals to which they subscribe: to take in a new journal, they need to drop an old one. While I fully expect to see the monograph and edited collection to be around long after my career is done, I have no such expectations for the print journal (some, may even most, journals will probably keep the “print” format for some time to come, but most will exist as electronic documents).

  3. Steven D. Krause says:

    When I say that online journals are inevitably going to replace print journals, I think what I mean is that the web (online) is going to replace print journals as a mode of delivery. In other words, I’m imagining a journal like the CCCs looking fairly similar to the print version, but it is delievered/published electronically– something like pdf files on the web, for example. So you could still print these off and read them on the bus or what-have-you. I’m not really talking about some kind of “rich hypertextual environoment” in which these documents only make sense if you are online. I think what I’m talking about is a form of “publishing on demand” but for periodicals.

    And what John is saying here is very true, too. Libraries– especially of the sorts with limited resources at EMU– have a problem with where to put all of this stuff, and this is just flat-out not a problem when these materials are published electronically.

    So again, I’m really just talking about a delivery vehicle.

    And, to be fair, maybe the CCCs is a bad example because they probably have a pretty big press run, 2000 or 3000 issues (I don’t really know– I’m just guessing). But we publish a journal at EMU called the Journal of Narrative Theory which is a good journal with a considerably smaller circulation. You can imagine similar kinds of journals in comp/rhet. For journals that are are smaller circulation publications, I just don’t see how we sustain a model of traditional publishing.

  4. Mike says:

    Steve, I was only disagreeing with your fourth paragraph, which was saying what you think should happen based on your experience of reading. Your sixth paragraph then turns that into a statement of inevitiability — this will happen — which John follows up on and makes some good points. I think what you’re saying about the economics of libraries and publishing is important, and definitely merits further discussion, particularly in terms of who the “we” are who might “sustain a model of traditional publishing”: in economic terms, who bore the costs of the “traditional publishing” model, and who bears the costs of the new publishing model?

    My main point was that I don’t think there is a single monolithic “norm” in terms of practices of reading, and arguing that a single mode of publishing should replace others based on that supposed “norm” is problematic in that it shuts down possibilities interacting with texts rather than opening them up.

    It’s, yet again, an aspect of the whole ceci tuera cela rhetoric of replacement that I find so troubling in Kim White’s recent Kairosnews post about textbooks: why do we so persistently need to imagine textuality as some zero-sum game with room enough for only a single mode of delivery?

  5. Steven D. Krause says:

    Generally, I would agree with you here, at least in terms of what I think you are saying about the problem of suggesting that there will be one and only one replacement: books will automatically be replaced by something digital (the web, portable digital readers, electric paper, etc.)

    But I guess I see academic journals as a bit different. They represent such “micro” industries in the world of publishing that I am suggesting that they can’t really sustain the same model of publishing as Time or Newsweek or whatever. And again, I think part of it is the way these publications are used. I appreciate your desire to read an academic journal on the bus Mike, but I would bet that most people who do this sort of reading do it in the context of research, meaning they’d be willing to print it off for portability or they don’t really need the portability.

    Who will pay for these online publications? Well, I haven’t done the research on this (yet), but my guess is that most academic journals are sustained primarily through subscriptions by academic libraries and by support from host institutions. There’s some advertising in there, but probably not much. If these publications were just available online, there could still be some sort of subscription fee, host institution support wouldn’t necessarily change at all, and I suppose you could still have ads online if you really wanted them. I suspect the cost savings would be in mundane things like postage, storage, paper, etc. I”m told that that actually isn’t that much, but I don’t know about that. Beyond that, there’d be the advantage of online access.

    As for textbooks: this might be another entry yet this morning, but my off the cuff thoughts for now are two-fold. First, there’s been talk about electronic textbooks for years and years and it still hasn’t happened. A closely related second is the problem of money exchanging hands, which is one of the key components of the textbook industry. If things are on the web and available for free, this benefits students, but it doesn’t benefit textbook writers, publishers, or retailers, and those three groups have a lot more power in the process than the students.

  6. Mike says:

    Good points all, and I’m mostly in agreement. You know, Cory Doctorow has made free downloadable versions of his three novels available on the Web, and Amazon sales ranks of the purchasable, material versions are pretty good, and roughly comparable to other recent award-winning sci-fi novels. So I think the economics of print versus online textbooks are complicated, and bear further examination. Unfortunately, the textbook publishers don’t seem to get this, and are still eager to rip off students with overpriced DRM-garbage digital textbooks that expire in five months.

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