BMCR 1994.06.08

Directory of Electronic Journals

Directory of Electronic Journals, Newsletters and Academic Discussion Lists. Washington: Association of Research Libraries, 1994. Pp. vi + 575. $59.

The map is not the territory, but a good map comes in handy, especially if you get out beyond the interstates. They help you find all sorts of interesting things and have at least a little confidence that you’ll be able to come back afterwards. Cyberspace lends itself to the metaphor of uncharted frontier, and it can be a frighteningly agoraphobic kind of place if you let yourself think that way. It’s as full of information as the sky over our heads is full of satellite s, and the information like the satellites has a far amount of worn-out junk mixed in with the indispensable stuff. A good map in such a situation can calm you down a lot, get you to places you never thought of to go, and also help you make sure you get to the places that you’d be sorry to have missed.

The fourth annual edition of the Directory of Electronic Journals, Newsletters and Academic Discussion Lists is growing at a rate only slightly less impressive than the figures for total internet traffic. The 1993 edition ran to about 350 pages and registered about 1300 items; a year later, 200+ more pages, 800+ more items listed. The great value of this collection is that it indexes an important part of cyberspace from the academic’s point of view. What is there that qualifies by any reasonable definition as a journal, newsletter or e-list with academic content? When you hear numbers like 12,000 total internet e-lists bandied about, the 1700 or so here are a valuable culling of that mass. At the same time, this is no blue-nosed selection: PSYCOLOQUY and MIT Press’s Artificial Life Journal are there, but so is Cult of the Dead Cow—not quite respectable, but in an odd way quite serious and worth at least a small detour if you happen to pass it on a gopher menu. BMCR, BMMR, BMR, Electronic Antiquity, Didaskalia, Sixteenth Century Journal, and CLIONET are all there, cheek by jowl with Postmodern Culture (both the academic journal of that name and all the other netware manifestations of the same spirit). The volume is handsomely laid out and durably produced, providing abundant useful (and indexed) information, and best of all, the information is kept to a high standard of accuracy and currency as of spring 1994. Those mountains of Internet guides toppling off the table at your local bookstore exist mainly to encourage you to purchase them, and some are of very low quality indeed: this one won’t be at the bookstore, but is worth seeking out. (Unsolicited testimonial: the best one to get at the bookstore is still Krol’s Whole Internet Guide, now in a new edition. Some of the others are ok, but once you’ve got Krol, I’ve never been able to figure out why you’d want another one.) There is one more important aspect of this book: It has shaped the community of e-journal publishers and editors as much as the community of readers. In part it has done this by defining the field and giving it self-consciousness and visibility, but in part by printing not only the basic listings but also each year a sampling of interesting and influential articles and bibliographic guides. This year, there are two important “think pieces”, one by Geoffrey Nunberg on “The Places of Books in the Age of Electronic Reproduction” (reprinted from the Representations special issue on the future of libraries last year), and one by e-journal Surfaces editor Jean-Claude Guedon: “Why are Electronic Publications Difficult to Classify?” In addition, Birdie MacLennan of the University of Vermont offers a pioneer’s guide to “Electronic Serial Sites” (where the gophers and other archives may be found and which ones are best, which ones are toxic waste dumps), David Robison offers a ten page bibliography of articles on the whole field of e-journal publishing, and Steve Outing offers a list of newspaper publishers with on-line services.

In short, this is the indispensable vade mecum for the serious user of Internet publications. At the very least, both the campus library reference department and the campus humanities center should have copies within thumbable reach.