The Professional Magazine
and Parallel Publishing

John MacColl
Managing Editor, ARIADNE Magazine
University of Abertay Dundee
Bell Street, Dundee DD1 1HG
[email protected]

D-Lib Magazine, February 1997

ISSN 1082-9873

Ariadne is a professional magazine for librarians and information specialists working in Higher Education (HE) published both in print and, in parallel, on the World Wide Web (Ariadne The Web Version). Funded initially on a two-year basis as a pilot project by the Electronic Libraries Programme (eLib) in the UK, its purpose is twofold. First, the Project seeks to discover whether the parallel format is valuable in the case of a professional news magazine publication. Second, Ariadne acts as a news magazine about the eLib programme to the whole of the UK HE library and information community

The Web Version, which the Ariadne Web Editor John Kirriemuir describes in a separate article in this issue, has been acclaimed for its design and the quality of its content, some - though by no means all - of which it derives from the print version. Because the project set out to test the viability of the parallel approach, we decided that Ariadne in print should also be of the best quality possible. Within our limited means, therefore, we created a professionally designed, 12-page glossy magazine, with four pages in full colour and eight with spot colour. Features were designed with commissioned illustrations in their headings. A typeface was specially chosen to give Ariadne its own distinct appearance. We aimed at producing a publication which was bright and vibrant.

But why should a programme like eLib, which was given substantial government funding (15 million pounds over three years) to create an electronic information environment for UK higher education, fund a print publication? How does it justify the cost of producing a magazine published in print and on the Web? Surely economics are at the heart of the drive towards the electronic library, as much as the functional advantages of electronic information? Some might argue that eLib should be aiming to save money on publishing, not to spend more by publishing a single magazine twice over - once in print and once on the Web. But this view ignores the nature of eLib as an experimental programme and the possibility that parallel publication may have merit beyond mere replication of content in a virtually cost-free environment. Could a publication which fully exploits the strengths of print and the Web in fact be a more powerful, more pervasive and more authoritative vehicle for conveying news, ideas and reviews to its community than either of its parts would be alone?

The argument that technology should be employed simply to save costs also misreads the true nature of eLib. John Kelleher, interviewed in the current issue of Ariadne (January 1997), makes the point that the programme is not really about electronics and libraries, but rather it is about people in organisations and the way they behave. "What we find time and time again is that technology is the pretext for organisational change." This provides an interesting slant on the question of what our ultimate objective is. The programme is concerned less with the use of electronics to change the way we work, than it is with the creation of new, experimental space in which to understand the way our work is changing. This is heartening for a parallel publication project, since it provides the counterweight to the argument that an electronic library programme should only fund electronic developments. Change will happen with or without eLib. The programme allows us to test ideas as a part of the planning process for that change. Michael Buckland's book Redesigning library services deals with the issue of change across a longer timeframe than is encompassed by the eLib programme, and emphasises the priority which must be given to planning. "Creative planning is of central importance because of the superiority of planning over merely reacting to events. Planning offers us a chance to create the future." [1].

The mission of a news magazine is awareness. Unless we are to condemn altogether the use of "ink squeezed into dead trees", as John Lindsay describes print in his article "Infopolecon" in issue 6 of Ariadne, November 1996, we should find nothing odd about an experiment in complementary print and electronic publishing. Yet our evaluation so far reveals that to some people the concept of a print journal to describe electronic information and publishing developments is ironic.

Somebody should do the research. How many librarians and information workers have full Web access? A growing proportion. How many would choose to use it for all their professional reading if every publication existed in parallel? If the answer were likely to be 'one hundred per cent', then a news magazine would be bound to appear only in electronic form. If the answer differs, then, to fulfill its mission such a magazine is bound to look at parallel publication.

While one of the chief aims of Ariadne is to test the viability of the parallel form, that aim should be irrelevant to our readers. A news magazine carries news - it is not itself news. If the medium is to be part of the message, it needs to be unobtrusive about it, because, for readers looking for news, novelties can be irritating. Waiting for a page of a Web publication to develop on screen can be as frustrating as choking on strings of URLs on the printed page (which we try to avoid, where possible, in the print Ariadne, on the basis that we should take advantage of the Web version to provide an obvious, elegant solution for both media). Links for the sake of links can vandalise a text. A copy of Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, discovered recently in the electronic reserve collection of a US university, contains a link from the line, "I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each" to a Web site for fans of Disney's Little Mermaid. The degree of relevance of links is an important issue in Web publication, and one which is being addressed by the Open Journals Project, described in Ariadne issue 7.

The news is elsewhere, and it is fast-moving and fascinating. The learning environment within HE is changing, and the services provided by libraries and information services are now woven through that environment, rather than existing as discrete adjuncts, as they did in the days of non-networked undergraduate reading rooms, departmental libraries and the whole notion of going to the library in the hope of finding the book or journal desired. Users still go to the library, but for specific requirements - chapters of core texts, articles from reading lists, index searches - they go increasingly to the network, in the near certainty of finding the material they seek. To use Buckland's terminology, the Electronic Library offers a guaranteed service which the Paper and the Automated Libraries [2] could never hope to provide. This is news, and the Electronic Libraries Programme, together with other research and development work happening in the UK and all around the world, is full of fascinating detail about how it is being realised.

Librarians and information workers keep up to date by reading materials which come traditionally in two forms - books (including reports) and journals. News magazines are a special form of journal, distinguished from research journals by being more frequent, containing a high proportion of news, and not employing peer review methods as a publication control. Magazines tend to commission many of their articles, rather than attracting them from the research community. For our purposes we can consider journals and magazines as two separate forms. In this era of Web publication, with its relative ease of navigation, ability to include graphics and even, more recently, the opportunity to present electronic copies of printed pages, the possibility of producing electronic-only or parallel publications has opened up as never before. Which of these traditional forms is likely to take advantage?

Books? Let us think about library school students and their needs. Books are more often authoritative over a wider area of a subject than are journal articles, which are usually the products of research. This gives them a status as teaching instruments which research articles rarely possess. The intention with the publication of most academic textbooks is that they will provide a contribution to the literature which is decisive - which represents a milestone. With research articles, the intention is rather that they will advance or develop an aspect of their subject.

While, with the exception of a growing body of classic texts, it is still relatively rare to find whole books online, there is an increasing demand for individual book chapters and sections to be digitised for electronic reserve collections. This creates a form of parallel publishing of books which is selective and partial, and is unlikely to develop beyond that in the foreseeable future. Digitisation is more time-consuming, given that pre-processing and post-processing are both required and significant, than is generally imagined. Even if digitisation on a universal scale were possible, and an easy mechanism for obtaining copyright clearance existed, the proportion of books which are sufficiently 'key' to warrant being included in electronic reserve collections is always going to be too small to justify full-scale parallelism. For as long as scholarship (as opposed simply to teaching) exists, one course's core text will be another course's supporting text, and the design of the printed book, abetted by the indexing and retrieval tools of the Automated Library, is still the most economically efficient and effective means of meeting the student's need to 'read around' in a subject, exploring it in ways of their own choosing. For material traditionally in book form, therefore, a need to publish selectively in parallel looks likely to be the ideal combination of learning technologies for the foreseeable future, with the electronic form being secondary to the print form.

In the case of scholarly journals, ideas are served up in smaller slices which are more susceptible to electronic treatment. Researchers are interested in research findings. They want immediacy, and Web publication provides both immediacy and the ability to represent findings as fully as in print. Indeed, with video clips, animations, sound and easy links to tables and databases of raw research data, the Web in many ways offers the best technology yet discovered for researchers with findings to disseminate. Such functionality can usefully enhance parallel forms of book publications too, though the investment in authoring is less easy to justify in the case of secondary, rather than primary, electronic publication, and the desire to present findings immediately is not as urgent. Parallelism seems more likely to be transitional, in the case of scholarly research journals, with the eventual standard being Web-only publication. The spiralling costs of print research journals may accelerate this development. Stevan Harnad's views on the economic absurdity of libraries bankrolling publishers to produce print journals are widely known, and summarised in Ariadne, issue 2.

Magazines, however, exist for a different purpose. Magazines play a part in our society in providing tailored news and information to special interest groups. The advent of Web publication has only increased the amount of paper devoted to the needs of computer and Net users in the form of print magazines. Professional magazines also exist to serve the members of particular professions, taking on a role in filtering information on news and latest developments in practice, reviewing trends, highlighting political issues and summarising research for the benefit of their professional readers. This role they occupy alongside scholarly research journals. In the UK, for example, we have scholarly journals such as Library Review and The New Review of Academic Librarianship, and professional magazines such as the Library Association Record, Information World Review and Managing Information.

The Web version provides an important new dimension in the representation of information, with opportunities for animation and multimedia delivery, and for interaction with the material. It offers immediacy of information retrieval by keyword searching, a view of the issue or article embedded in its entire archive and the immersion into an organic, changing and expanding universe of knowledge representation through hypertext linking. Space to print is unlimited - a luxury for editors since it means that all editing is technical editing, with sub-editing (trimming the material to fit the space available) not required. This admittedly also carries dangers, and it is tempting for the print magazine editor to assume that the necessary discipline of writing to fit a space produces inevitably better copy. But this is an arrogant assumption and one which is demeaning to Web publications. Editorial discipline is required in both forms, and any extra 'spring' which writing to fit a space can give copy in print is counter-balanced by the inevitable regrettable omissions obliged by the same constraint

Since the Web offers so much, why continue to publish a print alternative? More specifically, what does the print version do that cannot be done by the Web version?

There are some important and unique attributes of the print alternative. First, its existence as a physical entity gives immediate scope to its contents. The reader who receives a copy of Ariadne on their desk knows instantly how much it contains, can flick through it for an overall impression in a couple of seconds, and therefore has acquired immediate information about the publication they are dealing with. The printed magazine gives more information about itself more quickly than does the Web version.

The magazine, in its twelve pages, is complete in itself. Its size and weight give us immediate information about how manageable it is within the context of our busy lives. The articles are all there - we can see what length they are. While they may contain references to other works, or create in our own minds links which we might like to follow, the opportunity of pursuing those as we read are limited. While this means that it may be necessary to make mental or written notes to pursue a link later, it can also be comforting - particularly if we are reading 'off-duty'. The whole is, even with its imperfections, a finished work. It is collectable and archivable. It has a physical existence. It has made a real footprint, not the ghostly footprint of a Web issue. It is instantly portable. We have had feedback from readers who value its company on tube journeys to work, and reports of lecturers in library schools waving it in front of classes. While its Web counterpart can do much more with the presentation of content and is liberated from the constraints of print and paper, the instant portability is also a liberating feature.

As the publishers of computing glossies know only too well, print has a high marketing appeal because of the quality of the production of text and colour images possible on paper. Tactility sells. The Electronic Newsstand will never persuade browsers to part with their cash as easily as a high street newsagent does, from whose shelves glossy magazines can be lifted, felt and smelled in a sensuous combination which creates the urge to own them. Marketing professionals would find none of this surprising. What sells? Visual appeal, literal 'feel'. Why? Because people want to possess in order to feel in control of what they read.

Web publishing has a great deal to offer as a professional news magazine medium. It is fully interactive, presentationally flexible, personally customisable, searchable, archival, comprehensive and authoritative. But print is still the medium of choice for marketing a publication, and its sensible immediacy fits with the working and leisure habits of most professionals in a way which is long established and comfortable.

Both forms require to be tied tightly together editorially, while not providing exact formal parallels. The Web form can obviously include longer versions of articles, and links to related material, including material in multi-media formats. It also provides a means of ready interaction with the publication's editors and authors which the print magazine editor can only envy. To have access to both media for the publication of a single title is a wonderful opportunity. If we can assume a wired-up readership, the potential for exploiting the relationships between both is enormous, and there is great scope for editorial and design creativity - much more, for example, than newspapers have through tabloid supplements, which have in recent years allowed them to publish their own specialist magazines. Rob Ainsley of Future Publishing (which publishes a range of computing and leisure parallel magazines in the UK) summed this up in an interview in Ariadne issue 3 " ' the parallel form of print and Web will still be around in 50 years time'.The future is parallel."

Our contention is that professional magazine publishing is well-suited to a parallel format. In the Electronic Libraries programme, which is about change in learning more than it is about electronics in libraries, the findings of the ARIADNE project to date bear this out. For this type of professional publication, print retains an important role because tactility has many advantages which can be placed alongside those of electronic publishing. The full exploitation of each respective medium is still being worked out. We hope for the opportunity to research this further and at the same time to create, with Ariadne, an enduring addition to the professional literature.


  1. M. Buckland, Redesigning library services: a manifesto, Chicago: American Library Association, 1992, 8.

  2. M. Buckland, Redesigning library services: a manifesto, Chicago: American Library Association, 5.

Copyright the author, 1997. Non-exclusive right to publish granted to D-Lib Magazine.

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