Journals historically started as print publications and, after reaching the library, were catalogued and arranged systematically for readers to find articles easily. Sometimes academics were confused and so would ask library staff to find the journal or articles in it.
Then journals were entered into library computers of library. This made it far easier for users and librarians to see and find a particular journal or book.
Now we have the internet. Journals have web versions and we can access them online on the day they are published. Even more importantly, some online journals offer free access too.
When I joined The Journal of Young Investigators as an Associate Editor in 2006, it was an online only journal and it still is. I’m now its research editor.
Many times I raised concerns in meetings about launching a print version of the journal because of the costs. So it remains an online-only, open access journal.
Journals sucy as PLOS ONE have been online only from their very early launch periods, with the objective to allow access to all scientific discoveries and findings, even negative studies, provided the science has been well followed (study design, methodology and manuscript preparation). Online only publication has achieved huge cost savings.
Some print journals which are going online only too. The High Altitude Medicine and Biology went online only in 2009. Its editor-in-chief, John B West, wrote an emotional and farewell editorial in the December 2008 issue of December, entitled “An important change to our journal.”
To me, it seemed rather like a print journal’s swansong. The editor accepts the change, and in the future, there won’t be any surprise if other publications also become online only.
As well as journals, there are also more and more professional discussion forums where we participate and discuss about different medical issues. BMJ group has launched doc2doc, a professional networking site. There are also BMJ blogs. Other journals such as the Lancet, are also launching online only activities (its Student blogs, for instance.
Rapid response facilities, such as the BMJ’s, also encourage interaction. Such online only activities encourage people to participate in the discussion, express their ideas, and reduce production costs such as printing and distribution, and are open access to all (though not all online only publications are freely accessible).