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In-Depth on the Issues

Many aspects of scholarly publishing represent a remarkable gift economy: both the authors and the reviewers of most peer-reviewed journal articles contribute their expertise and labor free of charge. Historically, many journals were published by scholarly societies, who either made the contents available at costs that barely covered expenses, or perhaps used modest revenues to fund society activities. While these older forms of distribution do still exist, today many scholarly journals are published by large commercial academic publishers. Authors , reviewers, and often editors still contribute their services free of charge, but subscription costs are often high - and usually increasing. Many pieces of this gift economy are no longer really about gifts - or even underwriting scholarly activities - anymore.

Parallel with business developments in publishing, technological revolutions have produced a wide variety of new channels of communication between and among scholars, new forms of scholarship, and even new ways of assessing scholarship. Some disciplines have rapidly embraced new and experimental modes of communication, while other disciplines have been slower to change.

Many scholars today are exploring their options when publishing - most commonly with journal articles and other "paper" length publications, but sometimes with monographs or other forms of scholarly products. The University Libraries, recognizing that continued subsidization of large for-profit publishers is not sustainable for the long-term, is committed to supporting sustainable new publishing, communication, and distribution mechanisms.

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