When ASHA recently announced that journals would be moving to an online-only format starting next year, I had mixed feelings. I had been hoping for the past several years that ASHA would discontinue distribution of printed journals, as I had taken advantage of keeping up with research in ASHA journals on the Web (ASHA Journals) and through free electronic table of contents (eTOC) notifications. Electronic journal articles are easier to store, organize, and access, allowing me to spend less time searching through old print issues for specific articles and more time doing research and seeing patients. Yet, I realized that other ASHA members might not share my enthusiasm for this change.
To many, the printed journal arriving in the mail is the more tangible reminder of the journal benefit that comes with membership. Online access is certainly convenient for members like me who are connected to the Internet like an umbilical cord, but I also recognize that not every member prefers to access research articles in the same way. However, a number of factors have converged to make it the right time to make the transition from print to online journals.
With the exception of members of the Financial Planning Board or people suffering from severe insomnia, the vast majority of ASHA members are not intimately familiar with the details of the association budget. Because ASHA staff and volunteer leaders have done an exceptional job of managing ASHA's finances, the long-term trend of increased printing, shipping, and postage costs has largely gone unnoticed by most members. However, as the size of the ASHA membership has increased, those production costs have increased exponentially-and as everyone found out with gas prices last summer, such costs are unpredictable and usually completely out of one's control.
ASHA kept sending the print journal of choice to members, but at the same time it became the industry standard for high-profile journals to be available online. Online availability gets the journals in more libraries, increases international use, and is a big boon to research and to the professions. The need-and requirement, really-for online access combined with increased production costs just make continuing to print journals financially unsustainable.
The movement away from print copies of scholarly journals also has obvious environmental benefits. In addition to a significant reduction in the paper used to print ASHA journals, fuel consumption and pollution associated with the delivery of journals to the increasing membership will be eliminated. Members can more judiciously select which articles they wish to print, which is an improvement over the current model that essentially prints every article in each issue of a member's selected journal. ASHA is dedicated to limiting the environmental impact of its activities. Moving to online-only journal access is another example of this commitment (ASHA Journals FAQs).
ASHA members also will begin to notice some exciting developments in ASHA scholarly journals that were not possible with the paper format. ASHA journals are already seamlessly integrated with search engines such as Google Scholar and PubMed to make finding and accessing articles on any given topic easy and convenient. Electronic articles offer the ability to embed video, audio files of stimuli, enhanced color figures, and links to related articles. The way research is being communicated is rapidly changing, and the full potential of online journals is just beginning to be realized.
Our association is dedicated to using member resources wisely. Although the initial reaction to the news that ASHA will no longer be distributing print copies of journals might be one of disappointment, members have already started to realize that the value of ASHA journals is not the paper, but rather the information they provide. Making this change will allow ASHA to publish more research in a more efficient manner than ever before.
Now, I just need to figure out what I'm going to do with all the unused bookshelf space in my office!