Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 5.2 (2004) 241-243
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We find ourselves in something of a transition period in the brave new world of electronic publishing. As with other transitions with which we are familiar, however, it is more evident where we are coming from than where we are going. The fact is, economic constraints have greatly affected academic publishing in recent years and the new technology of the Internet has not really changed anything fundamentally—yet. Rising costs and other pressures, real and perceived, have dictated that monographs and journal articles be shorter; while we all know that more concise is sometimes better, it is not always so in the realm of fundamental research, especially in the midst of an "archival revolution." This basic trend seriously affects much academic work, as articles and books increasingly take on the guise of scholarly sound bites. Kritika, for one, continues to offer an outlet for longer, more in-depth articles; and we continue to maintain that one size does not fit all when it comes to articles. But rising costs and, equally important, beliefs and attitudes about the bottom line among academic publishers have also affected the topics and style of academic research. In our "market" the goods are often sexed up to make them more publishable. Essential but often stolid genres like source criticism, historiography, and a range of less-than-glamorous subfields—never overly popular in an environment in which the culture of celebrity easily penetrates the ivory tower—suffer even more. The Internet has the potential to lift space constraints and provide new electronic publishing outlets, and in the long term may solve academic publishing's crisis. But how will it do so, and, more important, how will it change the forms and methods of scholarship? In this transition period questions can be posed, but the answers are not at all certain.
As Kritika prepares to celebrate its fifth birthday at the end of 2004, however, a number of significant developments have occurred that bring the integration of electronic components into our scholarship closer. Many more journals have gone online with electronic versions, as Kritika did after its second volume with Project MUSE of Johns Hopkins University Press. A number of important discussions about how e-publishing will and should affect historical scholarship have occurred, including imaginative interventions by Robert Darnton, the historian of printing and the press during the French Revolution.1 [End Page 241] The editor of The American Historical Review, Michael Grossberg, has emerged as a strong proponent of electronic publishing; and readers of that journal have recently been treated, through the debut of e-AHR, to the first of a series of fully electronic articles that integrate maps, charts, documents, historiographical excerpts, and hyperlinks. The authors of this applied innovation clearly also aspire to build a model for future efforts in the area.2
Yet how many scholars or readers of this journal have been following the discussions about the future forms of scholarship or, more to the point, are preparing to add an electronic dimension to their scholarship the next time they sit down to write an article or review essay? Our guess is, very few. While new forms of dissemination are already with us and beginning to change the future face of scholarly work, the majority of practicing historians and scholars in the field remain little more than bystanders. The new-model e-articles, moreover, seem at once to demand a team of computer specialists, journals with great resources, and scholars with a good deal of Internet expertise. In short, important discussions and examples of e-scholarship are emerging, possibly setting important precedents for the future, while the vast majority of scholars proceed as they have before. It is a paradoxical transition indeed.
In this context we believe this journal has a contribution to make, and we propose to make it starting with volume 6. We feel that adding a modest, phased-in electronic component to the everyday scholarship of our publications may well turn out to be a more...