July 19, 2011
How important is it for law journal authors to have their articles published in print?
The print format is fairly important if the author's work was not accepted by the most prestigious law journal he or she submitted it to.
Over two-thirds of the respondents to our survey said they would have published their article in the journal where it appeared even if that journal no longer published print issues. However, as a general matter, given the chance to publish in more than one of these prestigious journals, other than those they considered to be the most prestigious, more than half of these authors indicated that continuing publication of print issues would be the deciding factor in choosing which offer to accept.
That number, considered along with the 32 percent of all respondents who would not have published in the journal that published their article if the journal were not publishing print issues, is large enough to give pause to law journal editors thinking about eliminating print issues. In the short time they serve as editors, students without long term investments in publishing legal scholarship are unlikely to make far-reaching decisions to change publishing formats for their journal, whatever their personal reliance on print resources in their own research.
Quoting from Print or Perish? Authors’ Attitudes Toward Electronic-Only Publication of Law Journals [SSRN], an analysis on the prospects for the adoption of the Durham Statement on Open Access to Legal Scholarship, by Richard Danner (Duke Law), Kiril Kolev (Hendrix College) and Marguerite Most (Duke Law). The authors do, however, report that there appears to be generational differiences. The print format is less likely to be as much of a factor among youger law profs, the ones who must publish or perish.
Why survey law journal authors' attitudes toward electronic-only law journals?
[B]ecause scholars in all disciplines try to place their works in the highest ranked journals in their field, [so] it is important to consider the perspectives of legal scholars who have published in the primary journals of the top-ranked law schools.
Based on their survey findings the authors observe what can be characterized as "print or perish," a format differential in law journal competition for article submissions:
The difficulties are significant for any single journal, other perhaps than the very most prestigious, to move on its own to electronic only publishing.
One has to wonder whether and if so when the generational shift noted above may eventually move law schools to adopt electronic-only publishing. For details and analysis of the survey, check out Danner, Kolev & Most's Print or Perish? Authors’ Attitudes Toward Electronic-Only Publication of Law Journals [SSRN]. Here's the abstract:
An increasing number of U.S. law journals post at least current issues in freely accessible PDF and (in some cases) HTML formats on their web sites. Yet, perhaps without exception, the journals that make their articles freely available on their websites also continue to publish print issues in the face of declining subscription numbers, and law libraries’ growing disinterest in collecting and preserving journals in print. As universities reduce staff, freeze open positions, eliminate salary increases, and cut library budgets, why have law schools continued to subsidize print publication of journals that are accessible in electronic formats? Among the reasons suggested for this is the possible impact of electronic-only publishing on a journal’s reputation and ability to attract authors. This paper reports on the results of a survey of law journal authors’ attitudes toward electronic-only law journals.
On a related note, see the Council of Canadian Academic Law Library Directors endorsement of the Durham Statement in the Council's Calgary Statement on Free Access to Legal Information. Details here. [JH]