Volume 11 Number 7/8
Ten Years of D-Lib Magazine and Counting
I could not have predicted the degree of success that was to be achieved by the small set of dedicated folks who helped to launch D-Lib Magazine and to nurture it over the first ten years of its existence. The magazine has proven to be an important source of timely and relevant information about digital libraries in particular and, more generally, of information production, consumption and management. CNRI has been home to D-Lib Magazine since its inception in 1995, and although we publish the magazine, credit is really due to the many authors whose articles have informed the readership, and the handful of folks who worked, sometimes tirelessly and under the constant pressure of deadlines, to obtain interesting articles from leading practitioners, and to assemble and disseminate the monthly magazine on the Internet.
The origins of D-Lib Magazine can be traced directly to efforts in the early 1990s, when CNRI led a DARPA-supported effort called the Computer Science Technical Reports (CSTR) project that was a precursor to the follow-on multi-agency Digital Libraries Initiative (DLI). Many of the key individuals from the CSTR project also participated actively in the follow-on DLI initiative, a multi-agency government effort.
The late Barry Leiner saw the benefit of such a publication vehicle on the Internet and provided the initial funding from DARPA to support it. Bill Arms and Amy Friedlander collaborated to launch the magazine, which Amy produced month after month for over three years; Bill continued to stay involved for a few more years. Since then, Bonnie Wilson, with the guidance of Larry Lannom and able support of Catherine Rey and others at CNRI, has continued to serve as Editor of the magazine with distinction following what many thought were impossibly high standards set by Bill and Amy. Many others have contributed to the magazine over the years, including colleagues at both NSF and DARPA, and at various institutions both within and outside of government. Although we have no firm statistics on readership, the magazine is likely seen by thousands of readers from around the world and has become a premier place for practitioners in the field to disseminate useful information broadly and quickly.
Over the years, the range of articles in the magazine has been quite broad and varied. For every technology article, there were many more on information management or on metrics. The collection references other articles on the net by use of Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs), which are unique persistent identifiers issued by registration agencies of the International DOI Foundation; the technology is based on the CNRI Handle System. These references should persist in terms of continued accessibility along with the magazine archives.
Producing a high quality magazine on the net each month turned out to be somewhat less difficult than I would have expected, due almost entirely to the quality of the editorial staff and the willingness of the readership to contribute interesting articles. Funding the continued production of the magazine has been, perhaps, its biggest challenge. While the initial funding from DARPA covered most of the early costs, DARPA was unable to continue the support indefinitely. Subsequent funding from NSF helped greatly, but covered perhaps half the ongoing costs, with CNRI picking up the other half.
With the equivalent of a little over one full-time person at the helm, you might think it would be relatively easy to find a way to put the magazine on a pay-as-you-go basis. However, certain constraints, whether imposed or not, were likely to create basic limits as we pursued various potential funding alternatives. For one, we believed that readers of the magazine should not have to pay to read it, nor to encounter a complex registration process in order to be informed about state-of-the-art happenings in the field. We thought about charging authors to have their articles included and ruled that out as well. Many current and potential authors in this field simply do not have large budgets for information dissemination, and even if they did, the likely net revenue from this approach would have been far too small to be of much help.
It has been suggested that we offer advertising in the magazine to help offset the costs. I estimate this may cover something between a third and a half of the current costs without taking into account the staff needs to support the advertising. Clearly, this approach will only work if the readership is increased and we can keep aggregated statistics on overall usage to justify the advertising rates, including all the mirror sites, which we have not undertaken to date. Of course, Foundation funding is another possibility, but we have yet to identify such sources of support. We encourage the readership to engage in helping us to find a useful long-term solution to this funding issue. Please send any suggestions to <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
I cannot say with any degree of certainty how this will all work out over the coming months and years. However, the need for the kind of information dissemination mechanism that D-Lib Magazine has shown for quality information covering electronic aspects of libraries, publishing, and information creation, dissemination and management will only increase as the technology for access and dissemination of digital information continues to evolve.
Robert E. Kahn
President & CEO
Corporation for National Research Initiatives
Copyright© 2005 Corporation for National Research Initiatives
Letters | First Article
| E-mail the Editor