The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has a long-standing interest in the vitality of both research libraries and scholarly publishing. In the 1970s and early 1980s, the Foundation made large grants for the cataloging of collections and for the general support of the leading independent research libraries and university libraries. The Foundation also offered assistance to university presses. In the late 1980s, escalating operating costs at research libraries, especially for acquisitions, prompted a detailed empirical study of trends in both materials acquired and expenditures. The resulting work, University Libraries and Scholarly Communication, demonstrated that research libraries were spending more of their funds on acquisitions, but were buying a smaller share of what was available or what might be regarded as desirable to purchase by any reasonable standard. The situation seemed inherently unstable, and changes were inevitable.
At the time our report appeared, there was also reason to hope that solutions to at least some of these problems might be found through thoughtful utilization of the then-new information technologies. There was, however, only very limited experience with the application of these technologies to the scholarly communication process-from the electronic publication of works of scholarship, to ways of organizing and cataloging materials, to the provision of electronic access to the source materials for doing scholarship. We therefore decided that the Foundation might be able to make a significant contribution by supporting a variety of natural experiments in different fields of study using diverse formats-including the electronic equivalents of books, journals, manuscripts, sound recordings, photographs, and working papers. This initiative was launched in 1994, and to date the Foundation has made 30 grants totaling $12.8 million in support of projects that attempt to evaluate the effects on actual patterns of scholarly use and measurable costs when electronic approaches to scholarly communication are introduced.
Selection of these projects has been guided by Richard Ekman, secretary of the Foundation and a senior program officer, and Richard E. Quandt, HughesRogers Professor of Economics Emeritus at Princeton University and senior advisor to the Foundation. Ekman and Quandt have worked closely with the directors of these projects since their inception and, late in 1996, concluded that the time had come for the first exchange of reports on results achieved through projects funded by the earliest grants. Accordingly, they organized a conference, graciously hosted by Emory University in Atlanta in April 1997, at which some two dozen papers were presented (most of which were authored by the directors of these early projects). Some 60 other individuals participated in the conference, including librarians, publishers, and leaders in the field of information technology. Sessions were organized under the following headings: "Economics of Electronic Publishing-Cost Issues"; "The Evolution of Journals"; "Journal Pricing and User Acceptance"; "Patterns of Usage"; "Technical Choices and Standards"; "Licenses, Copyright, and Fair Use"; "Multi-Institutional Cooperation"; and "Sustaining Change."
The papers in this volume constitute most of those that were presented at the Atlanta conference. None of the conclusions put forth in these papers is definitive-it is too early for that. But they do demonstrate that a substantial amount of learning has already taken place about how to operate more effectively in light of changed economic and technological circumstances; how to set prices for scholarly products in order to make them sustainable in the long run; and how to make these new electronic resources as attractive and useful to students and scholars as traditional books and journals have been. In addition to reporting on "where we have been," these papers offer insights into the potential of information technology and well-informed statements about the future of the publishing and library worlds. The Foundation intends to follow these projects for some years to come and also to learn from the results of additional projects that have been approved more recently and could not be included in the April 1997 conference.
The papers in this volume are best regarded, then, as contributions to the opening of areas of inquiry rather than as fixed judgments about fields that are continuing to change very rapidly. It is a pleasure to applaud the work of the authors of these papers and also to congratulate Richard Ekman and Richard Quandt on the excellent work they have done in organizing and stimulating new thinking in the broad field of scholarly communication. The most daunting challenge, in my view, is how to improve scholarship, learning, and teaching while simultaneously reducing the costs of libraries and other institutions that will continue to work under intense budgetary pressures. The papers in this extremely useful volume will serve their purpose if they provoke as well as inform.
WILLIAM G. BOWEN