By now it is commonplace to observe that the economic position of research libraries has been deteriorating for at least 20 or more years and that derivative pressures have been experienced by publishers of scholarly monographs. The basic facts have been discussed in Cummings et al. (1992), and the facts and their interpretations have been analyzed in countless articles -ground that we do not need to cover from the beginning. Contemporaneously with these unfavorable changes, an explosive growth has occurred in information technology: processing speeds of computers have doubled perhaps every 18 months, hard-disk storage capacities have changed from 10 Mbytes for the first IBM-XTs to 6 to 8 Gbytes, and networks have grown in speed, capacity, and pervasiveness in equal measure. In chapter 21 of this volume, Michael Lesk shows that the number of Internet hosts has grown 10-fold in a four-year period. Parallel with the hardware changes has come the extraordinary development of software. The Web is now a nearly seamless environment about which the principal complaint may be that we are being inundated with too much information, scholarly and otherwise.
Some five years ago, more or less isolated and enthusiastic scholars started to make scholarly information available on the growing electronic networks, and it appeared that they were doing so at very low cost (per item of information). A few electronic journals started to appear; the hope was voiced in some quarters that modern information technology would supplant the traditional print-based forms of scholarly communication and do so at a substantially lower cost. The Association of Research Libraries, compiler of the Directory of Electronic Scholarly Journals, Newsletters, and Academic Discussion Lists since 1991, reports that there are currently approximately 4,000 refereed electronic journals.
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which has had a long-standing commit-
ment to support research libraries in their mission, announced a new initiative in 1994 with the dual objective of (1) supporting electronic and digital publishing and library projects that would make significant contributions to assisting scholarly communication, and (2) supporting them in a manner that would, at the same time, permit detailed and searching studies of the economics of these projects. The objective of the projects was not so much the creation of new hardware or software, but the thoughtful application of existing hardware and software to problems of scholarly communication-in Joseph Schumpeter's terms, the emphasis was to be more on "innovation" than on "invention." The Foundation also planned to diversify its portfolio of projects along functional lines-that is, to work with publishers as well as libraries; to deal with journals as well as monographs, reference works, and multimedia approaches; and to support liberal arts colleges as well as research universities. All grantees were required to include in their proposals a section that outlined the methodology to be used in the project to track the evolution of developmental and capital costs as well as continuing costs (the supply side of the equation) and to measure the usage of any new product created, preferably under varying pricing scenarios (the demand side of the equation). Out of these efforts, it was hoped, the outlines of a "business plan" would emerge from which one could ultimately judge the long-term viability of the product created by the project and examine whether it did, indeed, save libraries money in comparison with the conventional print-based delivery mechanism for an analogous product (Ekman and Quandt 1994).
The papers in the present volume represent, for the most part, the findings and analyses that have emerged from the first phase of the Foundation's grant making in this area. They were all presented and discussed at a conference held under the auspices of the Foundation at the Emory University Conference Center in Atlanta, Georgia, on April 24-25, 1997. They fall roughly into five categories: (1) papers that deal with important technical or methodological issues, such as techniques of digitizing, markup languages, or copyright; (2) papers that attempt to analyze what has, in fact, happened in particular experiments to use electronic publishing of various materials; (3) papers that deal specifically with the patterns of use and questions of productivity and long-term viability of electronic journals or books; (4) papers that consider models of how electronic publishing could be organized in the future; and (5) papers that deal with broader or more speculative approaches.
The purpose of this introductory essay is not to summarize each paper. Although we will refer to individual papers in the course of discussion, we would like to raise questions or comment on issues emerging from the papers in the hope of stimulating others to seek answers in the coming months and years.