This is a pre-pub version of an article that appeared in the Journal of Electronic Publishing (September 1997).

TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism:
An Experiment in Electronic Publishing

James R. Adair
Scholars Press

A Brief History of TC

Biblical textual criticism is a field of study that doesn't exist. At least, one will search the catalogs of seminaries, divinity schools, and departments of theology and religion in vain in the hopes of finding a course on the subject. Many schools offer classes in textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible or in New Testament textual criticism, but the two are usually treated as completely unrelated topics. Having had an interest in the textual criticism of both parts of the Christian Bible for some time, the idea of starting a journal that dealt with biblical textual criticism had been on my mind for several years before the opportunity finally arrived. Upon graduation from seminary, I discovered that there were many more jobs available for computer programmers (my profession in a former life) than for text critics, so in 1994 I took a job at Scholars Press--an academic publisher that specializes in the areas of religion, classics, and Mediterranean archaeology--as manager of the Information Technology department.

One of my first tasks at my new job was to set up a Web site to serve the Press and its sponsors, one of which was the Society of Biblical Literature. I had previously come to the realization that, because of the relatively small number of biblical text critics (both Old and New Testament types) around the world, a print journal would probably never be economically feasible. However, I was now in a position to try something different: an electronic journal. When I began exploring the possibilities of an electronic journal in late 1994, I had few models on which to base my efforts, since few humanities e-journals (at least on the Web) then existed--after all, there were only about 10,000 sites on the entire World Wide Web at the time (Lynch 1997: 53). In particular, few religion journals, and none in the biblical field, then existed. One that did exist, however, was the Journal of Buddhist Ethics, edited by Charles Prebish of Pennsylvania State University. I borrowed (or, in good Web fashion, shamelessly stole) many of the ideas for my own prospective journal from conversations with the editor and from frequent visits to his Web site.

Having decided to make the effort to create an electronic journal, in mid-1995 I began recruiting some of the most respected text critics in the world for my editorial board. The editors had quite a bit of enthusiasm for the project, but few had much experience with electronic publishing, so I knew that the lion's share of the work in developing the Web site would fall to me and to my technical editors. (While I was busily working to create the new journal, another electronic journal in the field of biblical studies, the Journal of Hebrew Scriptures, announced its inauguration. Both journals published their first articles in 1996.) Partly in an effort to generate interest in the journal and partly just because I thought it would be an interesting thing to try, I also started an e-mail discussion list, the tc-list, devoted to the same topic as the journal, in November 1995. By the time the first articles appeared in TC in May 1996, the list had been operational for about six months.

In our first year of operation we published four articles and eight reviews. Although this total may not seem very large for a whole year, it is comparable to the number of articles on the subject of textual criticism published in several of the more important print journals combined. Still, there is clearly plenty of room for growth in the number of articles and reviews published per year.

Advantages Real and Imagined of an Online Journal

Online journals have several characteristics that make them preferable to print journals in many instances. In the case of TC, economic realities played an important role in the decision to go electronic. The potential readership of a journal on biblical textual criticism probably numbers only in the hundreds, and the number of articles published in any given year on the topic in the traditional print journals is easily less than two dozen (sometimes a lot less). The costs of producing a print journal (probably only one issue per year) that would target such a small audience would make the subscription price prohibitive, and it is extremely unlikely that such a journal could be self-sustaining.

Another economic consideration came into play as well in the decision to go electronic. In the commercial world, authors are paid for their contributions to magazines and other publications. In the world of humanities journals, however, the frequency of such payments ranges from rarely to never. In other words, authors don't make any money from their own work; why then should the journals that contain their works expect to make money? If the author's purpose in writing a scholarly article is that his or her work be disseminated as widely as possible, the journal that contains the article does the greatest service to the author not by limiting who can access the article by charging high subscription prices but by making it as widely available as possible, preferably without charge (for a much more extensive argument along these lines, see the reasoning of Stevan Harnad and others in Okerson and O'Donnell 1995:11-12 and passim). Admittedly this is a philosophical argument that goes against the grain of the prevailing economic theory in some quarters, but if one believes that the purpose of a scholarly journal is to promote scholarship, it is a point worth considering.

As intimated in the preceding paragraph, another advantage that an online journal has over its print counterpart is improved access. Individual scholars are limited by financial constraints in the number of journals to which they can subscribe. Access to articles in other journals requires a trip to the library, assuming there is a library nearby that carries the journal (difficult for one of our readers who lives in Wyoming, not to mention our readers in countries with few such resources), and assuming that the library is open when the reference is encountered (difficult for night owls like me). Unlike print articles, which are available only during business hours to patrons within driving distance of the library, online articles are available twenty-four hours a day to anyone with Internet access (unfortunately not yet everywhere, but progress is being made!). An indication of the increased accessibility of online articles is recorded in the access statistics compiled by our Web site. Each of the four articles in the first year (1996) was accessed more than 200 times, even though the first articles did not appear until May. The journal itself recorded an average of 145 hits per day from May through December. Although a single hit does not imply that someone read an article all the way through, neither does the fact that someone picks up a paper journal imply that any article in it was read. I would venture to guess that our articles were read by more people than most articles dealing with biblical textual criticism in the traditional print journals, although I have obviously not done a scientific study of the matter.

If authors like increased access to their work, so do they appreciate the shorter production cycle possible with an online article. In TC, all communication between the author, editor, and reviewers is done electronically, usually by e-mail, but sometimes via the Web or occasionally by fax. Electronic communication not only eliminates the delay related to regular mail service (aptly called "snail mail"), it also allows the editor (me) to interact more with both author and reviewers. As a result, questions about an author's arguments or about a reviewer's comments can be quickly answered. The back and forth among author, editor, and reviewers allows for the creation of a better final article, particularly in the case of younger, less experienced authors who have good insights but can use help in expressing themselves clearly and convincingly. The interval between a typical TC article's initial reception by the editor and its publication is between two and three months, depending largely on time it takes the author to incorporate whatever revisions have been suggested by the peer-review process. (The quick appearance of TC articles is also aided by the journal's policy of publishing articles as soon as they are ready, avoiding the restrictions of a periodic publishing schedule associated with print.) This length of time may be compared with that of the typical print journal in the field, which has a normal production cycle of more than a year, and sometimes two or three years. Authors who expect feedback or critique of their ideas have a long wait, and it is not uncommon for an author whose ideas are just appearing in print to have already modified his or her viewpoint somewhat upon further reflection, especially when a preliminary form of the article has already been presented at a scholarly congress.

The short publication cycle possible with an online journal is especially important when dealing with book reviews. Acquisitions librarians use book reviews as guides in ordering new volumes, and scholars anxious to keep abreast of developments in their field of study rely on reviews to keep them up to date. Book reviews should follow as closely on the heels of publication as possible. Unfortunately, a brief perusal of the review section of the typical print journal indicates that the books in question have often languished on the shelf of either the reviewer or the book review editor for two, three, or sometimes four years before the review sees the light of day. This situation is helpful neither to the librarian nor to the interested scholar (not to mention the author of the book!). In TC we make every effort to publish reviews of books dealing with our subject as quickly as possible. Our book review editor elicits commitments from reviewers to submit their reviews within a reasonable amount of time, usually two to three months at the longest. Thus, we are often able to review books within a few months of their publication, and in no case do we publish reviews of books that are more than two years old. We hope that by providing timely book reviews we are providing a valuable service to our readers, as well as to the authors and publishers of the books that we review.

I mentioned earlier the fact that I established an e-mail discussion list to encourage discussion about the central theme of the journal. In doing so one of my hopes was that some of the participants on the list would become contributors to the journal. Although this had happened to a limited extent (I've actually had several people on the list give me rough ideas for articles, but I've received only a few fully developed articles), the list has turned out to be a valuable source for book reviewers. We have published several insightful reviews authored by members of the list.

An incident associated with one of our reviews illustrates another nice aspect of the online journal: flexibility. On one occasion a reviewer, in an otherwise good review, misstated one of the author's points. When the author pointed this out, I had her write a short note to this effect, and we added a pointer from the review to the author's rejoinder. If the same situation had occurred in a print journal, the correction would have had to appear in a separate issue from the original review, and unsuspecting readers from then on would never have been aware of the problem unless they just happened to read the later issue of the journal (from cover to cover) as well. Freed from the constraints of print, the solution we were able to offer in our online journal was clearly superior to the options available to an editor of a print journal.

Finally, some mention should be made of the technological advances that online articles are able to take advantage of. The most obvious of these is the hypertext link. Although the idea of hyperlinks is an old one (rabbinic Bibles, for example, make use of the same concept by placing translation and commentary on the text in the margins of the page), printed hyperlinks such as footnotes, index entries, and tables of contents do not have the same power as electronic hyperlinks do. We use hyperlinks extensively in TC for footnotes, bibliographic entries, and references within the text itself. Since there are no page numbers in our articles (page being a print concept), we number every paragraph so that the article itself, or future articles, can link directly to a relevant place in the text. Since our articles deal intensively with the biblical text, we also use hyperlinks to allow readers to click on any biblical reference mentioned in the text and see the passage in English, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, or Syriac--non-Roman characters are transliterated at present (e.g., Gen 12:1-3). We have also used hyperlinks to graphic images to illustrate the presentation of parallel Syriac translations of the New Testament (Kiraz 1996).

Another potential use of technology in an online journal would be a link to a computer program that simulates the process of scribal copying, complete with random transmission errors and the destruction of random manuscripts (though not linked to by any of our articles, one of our technical editors, Tim Finney, contributed a program that does this: Finney 1996). Other possibilities include links to a sound file (perhaps an illustration of Greek pronunciation in different time periods) or a video file (maybe an MPEG video of modern Egyptians creating a sheet of papyrus). Even something as simple as the use of color to highlight the passage in a manuscript that is being discussed is something that online journals allow that is not possible in many print journals (see the illustration at the beginning of Mynatt 1996).

Problems and Perils Encountered in Implementing an Online Journal

Despite the promises that technology offers to authors, editors, and publishers alike, significant difficulties also confront the would-be electronic journal. Perhaps the major obstacle that I have faced in trying to get TC off the ground is an attitude of skepticism that many established scholars have toward the medium. My discussions with other editors of electronic journals in the fields of religious studies confirm my experiences. While many in academia (my primary source for articles) welcomed this new venture with enthusiasm, many others, including many who are among the most respected leaders in the field, viewed an electronic journal as something hardly worthy of serious consideration. I have spoken with one leading textual scholar, a prolific writer, on several occasions at conferences, inviting him to contribute an article to our journal, and every time he smiles, shakes his head, and responds that it just can't be serious scholarship if it's not in print. And his attitude is not unique.

One can readily understand some of the reasons for concern that are voiced against online journals. First, many people question the permanence of online material. Veteran Web surfers are aware of the ephemeral nature of much of the material on the Web, here one day and gone the next. What assurance can editors of online journals offer their contributors that their work will not soon disappear like so many other Web pages? One answer is that journals that have strong institutional backing, for example, a university or a learned society, can offer the long-term commitment of that institution as surety for the permanence of the page. Editors whose journals are independent of any institution will have to offer a similar strong guarantee that work submitted will be preserved, perhaps by making arrangements to have the material archived by a university library or in an electronic archive (TC is archived by the Committee on Institutional Cooperation Electronic Journals Collection; the CIC is the academic consortium of the Big Ten universities and the University of Chicago). Another issue related to permanence concerns the transitory nature of many URLs. When we moved our Internet computer from one building at Emory University to another, we changed subnets, and thus our URL changed. In order to forestall any future changes to the TC Internet address caused by reassignment of domain names, physical moves of the computer, or a change in sponsorship of the journal, I have recently acquired a Persistent URL (PURL) for the journal. PURLs do not change the way that URLs do, so even if the URL for the journal changes completely, the PURL will remain the same (for more information on PURLs, see the PURL home page, sponsored by the Online Computer Library Center [OCLC]). Some people will remain skeptical of the permanence of online journals, and only seeing them thrive for several years will convince them of their long-term viability. Nevertheless, I believe that most people will eventually acknowledge that the issue of permanence does not need to be a problem if the steps mentioned above are followed.

Another reason that many scholars question the value of online journals is that the quality of scholarship present in their articles is not as high as that found in traditional print journals. It must be admitted that, at present, this is a valid criticism. Electronic journals attract contributors that are computer-literate, and these tend to be younger, less-experienced scholars and students. Furthermore, no electronic journal in the field of religious studies has attained the stature of journals that have been around for many years, and rightly so. Only consistent quality should be rewarded with the mantle of universal recognition, and electronic journals have yet to prove themselves. However, the same can be said of the numerous new print journals that continue to spring up year by year, and the point that must be stressed is that electronic journals are in no way inferior to print journals simply by virtue of being online. (The argument that is often heard, "There is just so much junk on the Web, so Web journals can't be very valuable," is a non sequitur. There is more "junk" in print than online, and no one would argue that print journals are worthless on that basis.) What steps can editors of electronic journals take to ensure that their journals develop a reputation for scholarship? First, articles submitted to electronic journals should be put through the same rigorous peer-review process that articles submitted to print journals endure. One way of accomplishing this is to recruit a top-notch editorial board before the journal is ever launched. In the case of TC, I sought some of the top textual scholars in the world for my editorial board, and most of the people I contacted accepted the invitation to participate. In addition to reviewing prospective articles, the editorial board has provided me with invaluable advice along the way, as well as continued moral support. Another step that editors can take to assure the quality of their journal is to pursue some of the big names in their field to contribute articles to the journal. If an editor can get an established, well-respected scholar to contribute to the journal, the perceived quality of the journal will increase in the eyes of many. Admittedly this tactic is a species of propaganda related to the "testimonial"; nevertheless, in the formative stages of a journal, I think that it is a technique worth considering. It is a technique that I have tried, but so far without a lot of luck in the case of TC. Several well-regarded scholars have either promised articles or else promised to consider giving me articles, but so far my efforts at soliciting material from targeted leaders in the field have not been successful.

Closely related to the question of quality is the issue of value. What can editors do to raise the value of their electronic journal in the eyes of potential readers and contributors? The first and most obvious answer is to provide a quality product, a matter dealt with in the preceding paragraph. There are other things that an editor can do, however, to increase the value of a journal. One of these is to have the articles in the journal abstracted in some of the major abstracting journals in the field. Having articles abstracted in recognized journals will promote the visibility of the articles, and thus of the journal itself. TC articles are currently abstracted in two journals, Religious and Theological Abstracts and "Elenchus Bibliographicus" of Ephemerides Theologicae Lovaniensis (beginning with the 1998 issue of "Elenchus"). I plan to contact other abstracting journals as well concerning TC articles. Another way to add value to an online journal is to select an encoding standard that allows key pieces of information, such as author and title, to be found easily in a Web search. TC makes extensive use of <META> tags in each article, identifying, in addition to author and title, such matters as date of publication, URL of the article, and the name and volume number of the journal. We are considering upgrading the encoding of our articles from HTML to either SGML or XML, both of which allow information in the article itself to be marked for special significance (e.g., foreign words or titles of books and articles mentioned in the article can be tagged), sometime in the future (although we will certainly continue to provide HTML as well). A third step that editors can take to boost the value of their journal is to provide articles in a variety of formats. All TC articles are currently available in both HTML and text formats (the latter from our FTP site). Other formats that editors might want to consider include Postscript (for printing), PDF (for use with Adobe Acrobat), RTF (Rich Text Format), and various word processing formats (especially Word and WordPerfect). These suggestions are just a few of the ways in which an editor can enhance the value of his or her electronic journal.

The skepticism that some people have related to the issues of permanence, quality, and value are not the only difficulties facing the editor of an electronic journal. Another issue revolves around the problem of people involved with the journal "thinking print" rather than "thinking electronic" (for a fuller comment on this phenomenon, see my editorial in Offline 57). One way in which both authors and reviewers can "think electronic" is to take full advantage of the electronic tools available to them in the process of preparing and evaluating an article. To do this obviously includes composing the article with a word processing program, but much more is involved. Authors can submit their articles electronically, either by e-mail or FTP, rather than relying on the postal service to deliver their diskette or, worse yet, submitting only a hardcopy version of their article (TC requires that all articles be submitted electronically; although we do accept diskettes, we do not accept hardcopy only). Although reviewers will often want to print out a copy of the article for ease of reading, all their comments and corrections should be transmitted to the editor electronically, preferably by e-mail. If the article has been accepted, the editor can then communicate directly with the author, again by e-mail if possible, and inform him or her of any changes that need to be made in the article. Other means by which authors, reviewers, and editors can "think electronic" include creating the article initially in HTML format for viewing on the Web (TC has a test directory that it can use for this purpose), using temporary HTML pages to work out problems related to content or presentation, and using Web resources (e.g., other electronic journals, Web searches, online library catalogs) for research.

Using all the electronic tools available can improve an article, and communicating by e-mail or FTP greatly speeds up the review process, without compromising the quality of the work. However, often it is not only a matter of learning to use new resources and new technology that is the problem. Whereas most authors are anxious to have their work appear as quickly as possible, many of the people who review prospective articles are caught in the trap of thinking in "print time" rather than "electronic time"; this generalization applies to many book reviewers, too. Like the vaunted difference between "dog years" and "people years," the difference between "real years" and "Web years" is widely recognized. "Web years" are shorter than "real years" because of the rapidity of change in the technology that works with the Web. Similarly, one can distinguish between "print time"--where the process of composition, submission, review, revision, and publication can take a few years--and "electronic time," where the whole process need take no longer than a few months. Unfortunately, some reviewers who are used to slow print publication schedules, where an article or book they have been given to review would not be considered for publication for more than a year, have a difficult time making the transition to working with an electronic journal. Our book review editor, Leonard Greenspoon, has now adopted the policy of not assigning books to reviewers who will not commit to returning a review within a specified period of time (typically three months). This policy was necessitated when several books assigned for review apparently fell into the black hole of "print time," and were not reviewed within a year (as mentioned earlier, the TC policy is only to review books published within the previous two years). Even with the policy in place, some book reviews are extracted from reviewers only with great difficulty and much prodding. As general editor of the journal, I have encountered similar problems with having prospective articles reviewed, although, since the articles are much shorter than books, it has not been nearly as great a problem. The problem of getting people to "think electronic" is one that will only be overcome with time, training, and editorial selectivity in assigning articles and books for review, but it is a problem that can be overcome.

The biggest technical problem that TC has faced has been the problem of displaying multilingual texts. The original HTML specifications were not designed with multilingual documents in mind, and though the situation is much improved now, HTML remains an inferior method of encoding multilingual documents. The simplest aspect of the problem involves the display of foreign characters, such as Greek, in the midst of an English article. How can the characters be displayed? Numerous solutions are possible, each of which has advantages and disadvantages.

First, foreign characters can be transliterated and perhaps italicized. This solution is workable in some cases, but at least two problems are inherent in this approach: (1) many characters used in normal print transliterations are not available in HTML (e.g., macrons over vowels, dots under consonants, special characters such as the raised right half-circle); (2) in journals that deal with large amounts of textual material, transliteration, which is more difficult to read than the original script, is not a solution that endears itself to potential readers of the journal. Nevertheless, readers with text-only browsers or who only have access to text versions of articles, perhaps via an FTP site, will appreciate the availability of readable versions of the articles. TC provides versions of its articles that use transliteration according to a set of transliteration schemes adapted from standards developed for rendering Greek and Hebrew (e.g., see Washburn 1996).

Second, images can be used to render foreign characters. This solution is workable if a only small number of characters are employed, but it quickly becomes cumbersome, and the document containing the images will quickly grow too large for convenient downloading, if many characters need to be represented in this fashion. TC uses small GIF images of characters to represent the standard abbreviated names of manuscripts in some of its articles (e.g., Broman 1996).

A third way of displaying foreign characters, related to the second, is to render the entire article as an image, perhaps in PDF (Adobe Acrobat) format. This is a popular way of handling this problem (and others) in some circles, but after experimenting with the format, we determined that, although the articles print very nicely out of PDF, the on-screen quality of the display left much to be desired. I think of the PDF solution as an electronic fix based on a print mentality.

A similar approach to displaying foreign characters is to provide RTF (Rich Text Format) versions of an article, then have the reader either download the article for viewing later with Word or WordPerfect or view the article immediately on the screen with an appropriate word processor installed as a helper application. This solution, in addition to being "clunky," requires the use of proprietary software and is thus not a viable solution in many cases.

A fifth solution to the multilingual problem is to use public domain fonts that have normal ASCII characters in the lower 128 bytes and characters of a non-Roman script (e.g., Hebrew) in the upper 128 characters. This solution is perfectly workable in bilingual documents, and in fact standards exist for encoding Hebrew, Greek, Cyrillic, and other character sets alongside ASCII. Web browsers that allow the user to specify a different encoding scheme may make use of this solution. The problem for a journal like TC is that some of our articles use three or four different languages, not only two, so this solution will not work for us. Moreover, this solution requires the user to switch the default fonts manually, a procedure that is not particularly difficult but that is not transparent to the user. Furthermore, by using these "schizophrenic" fonts, the user loses the capability of displaying such special characters as é, ß, and ü.

An alternative way of displaying two languages in one document is to designate the proportionally spaced font as a normal ASCII/Latin 1 font and to use the monospaced font for a different character set. The special HTML characters are regained in this approach, but the use of the monospaced font is lost, and the document can still only display words in two character sets.

In mid-1996 Netscape and Microsoft came up with a solution that is better in many ways than all of the solutions mentioned so far, the creation of the <FONT FACE> tag. Technically, FACE is an attribute of the <FONT> tag that allows the encoder to specify which font should be used to display a particular set of characters. Although the solution was originally proprietary, it has been adopted by the HTML 3.2 standard, so it will soon be available to that small percentage of people who use browsers other than Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer. Since the encoder is able to specify the font to be used to render the text, all the journal editor has to do is adopt or create a set of standard fonts that will be used in the journal and make them available to the public. TC uses the public domain Scholars Press fonts, which currently include Hebrew, Greek, Syriac, Coptic, and transliteration fonts (see Washburn 1996a); these fonts have also been adopted by the Journal of Hebrew Scriptures and by others in the field of biblical studies. One drawback of this solution is that users have to download and install the fonts on their local computer in order to view the documents properly. This disadvantage is addressed by the following solution.

The most recent version of Netscape Communicator allows the encoder to embed fonts in a document and have the Web server (rather than the Web browser) serve the fonts to the user. This technology, known as TrueDoc, is a very nice development that builds on the previous solution. Using this technology, articles containing the <FONT FACE> tag no longer require the user to download the font in order to see the foreign characters. Instead, the server sends the font to the browser, which properly displays the characters. This solution will ultimately supplant the previous solution, since it is transparent to the user. Unfortunately, at the time this article is being written a bug in the Windows 95 version of Communicator prevents the <FONT FACE> tag from working as it did previously without embedded fonts (the Macintosh version works properly). This problem will undoubtedly be remedied, however, and when Internet Explorer and other browsers adopt this improvement, embedded fonts will be a good solution for many people.

The preceding description of the problems of displaying multilingual documents and the advances made in the past two years with the <FONT FACE> tag might seem to address all the difficulties possible, but one major obstacle remains that is not addressed by any of these solutions: the problem of bi-directionality. Unlike English and other Indo-European languages, most Semitic languages, including Hebrew, Arabic, and Syriac, are written from right to left rather than left to right. When right-to-left text is embedded in a predominantly left-to-right document, the characters must be encoded backwards. Furthermore, if more than one word of Hebrew, for example, is used, artificial contrivances such as non-breaking spaces (&nbsp;) or preformatted text tags (<PRE>) must be used to prevent inappropriate line breaks that would destroy the integrity of the phrase or sentence. There is currently no solution to this problem that is widely available, but the probable future solution is already extant. Unicode is a 16-bit encoding scheme designed to replace the currently universal 8-bit ASCII/Latin 1 scheme. Whereas an 8-bit scheme can represent only 256 characters, a 16-bit scheme can handle 65,536, more than enough to represent the characters in the vast majority of modern alphabetic scripts (Unicode also handles thousands of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean characters). In addition to allowing multiple scripts to co-exist in a single encoding scheme, thus alleviating the need to switch fonts in the middle of a document, the Unicode standard specifies the proper handling of right-to-left text, so that a Unicode-compliant application (like a Web browser) will have to handle the word-wrap problem, which is really not very difficult technically, in an appropriate manner. Windows NT already handles Unicode, as do many applications available for Windows 95, Macintosh, and UNIX operating systems. When all the major operating systems adopt Unicode as a substitute for ASCII/Latin 1, Web browsers, word processors, and other applications will have a superior means of dealing with multilingual texts.

One final problem that editors of electronic journals face has already been alluded to in the previous discussion, namely, the problem of differences in Web browsers that readers are using. The e-journal editor cannot assume that all of the journal's readers will use a single browser (e.g., Netscape Navigator) on a single platform (e.g., Windows 95). The use of different browsers on different platforms suggests that the editor should adopt a policy of using only standard HTML tags if at all possible, thus avoiding the problem of a page not displaying properly on an older browser or one developed by a different software house. Furthermore, the editor will have to test his or her journal's Web pages with different configurations of hardware and software, particularly whenever an innovation is introduced (e.g., <FONT FACE> tags, frames, Java applets). We test TC pages on Macintosh, Windows 95, Windows NT, and UNIX boxes using Netscape Navigator, Microsoft Internet Explorer, America Online, and lynx (a text-only browser) browsers. When performing these tests, the editor needs to keep in mind that many potential users have not upgraded to the most recent software, so innovations that are not backwards compatible should be implemented only after careful consideration.

Future Directions for Online Journals

Some of the directions in which online editors can expect their journals to go have already been mentioned. The integration of XML and Unicode in Web browsers will force editors to consider using the increased power available in these standards in their articles and on their other Web pages. The problems of permanence (or the lack thereof) that many people fear when thinking of online journals will disappear as solutions like PURLs are more widely used (another proposed solution is the use of URNs, Uniform Resource Names, rather than URLs). As more texts become available electronically, online articles will be able to insert hyperlinks in their articles that point not just to the reference in a bibliography but to the full text of the document itself. All of these possible (or rather, probable) directions involve developments in technology and increased use of current technology, but the biggest obstacles that online journals will face in the future will probably be more closely tied to human attitudes than to technological potential.

If it is difficult to get editorial boards, reviewers, and other supporters of an electronic journal to shift their way of thinking from print to electronic, how much harder will it be to convince skeptics and detractors? Electronic journals will eventually be accepted as equal partners with print journals, and their importance will likely eclipse that of their print counterparts in the more distant future, but the transition will be a slow one, particularly in the various humanities fields (for a more radical prophecy of doom concerning print journals, see Odlyzko 1996). Younger scholars who fully accept the value of online journals will have to take positions of responsibility in colleges and universities before many academic tenure committees will accept work submitted to electronic journals as the equivalent of that submitted to print journals. Electronic journals themselves will have to remain vigilant to maintain or improve their standards of quality over an extended period of time before they can expect to be treated as equals with the leading journals in the field. In addition, existing electronic journals will have to take advantage of the full potential of the medium, without giving in to the temptation to stress flash over substance, if they hope to maintain their tenuous positions as leaders (often by default) even in the electronic arena, for upstart electronic journals will appear to challenge them. Increased competition among electronic journals in a field can only benefit that field of study, though, since it will spur the production of a better product.

Existing e-journals will also face a stiff challenge from print journals that make the transition to online publishing (at first, usually as an adjunct to the print product). As print journals move into the electronic publishing arena, many bring with them years of publishing experience, name recognition, and a certain amount of customer loyalty. The transition to online publishing will not be easy for many journals, however, because the publishers (or editors) will try to produce online journals using "print thinking" that will handicap them in an online world. For example, they might expect that producing a journal both in print and electronically will be relatively easy and inexpensive, but they may find that not to be the case. Another pitfall that will hinder some print née electronic journals will be the continued use of an economic model that is rapidly growing outmoded, particularly in the face of many freely accessible e-journals. In the end, whether journals that are purely electronic can weather the challenge from their print counterparts that want to invade their territory will depend on the commitment of electronic editors to the continual improvement of their product, creative marketing and promotional strategies designed to make their journal known to as wide an audience as possible, and the ability of the print publishers to adapt to the different realities of the online world.

Electronic journals are here to stay, and their role in the future will only grow with the passage of time. Being associated with one of these journals is an exciting, sometimes harrowing, adventure, perhaps akin in some ways to the voyages of early navigators intent on finding new ways to get from here to there (and with less risk of scurvy!). Like all pioneers, those of us intimately involved with online journals are in uncharted waters, making the best guesses that we can, trying and failing and trying again, all in an attempt to create a product that we can be proud of and that will be of lasting benefit to others in our respective fields of study.


Print Publications

"Elenchus Bibliographicus" of Ephemerides Theologicae Lovaniensis. Louvain: Peeters.

Lynch, Clifford 1997. "Searching the Internet." Scientific American, March 1997, 52-56.

Odlyzko, Andrew M. 1996. "Tragic Loss or Good Riddance? The Impending Demise of Traditional Scholarly Journals." In Scholarly Publishing: The Electronic Frontier, ed. Robin P. Peek and Gregory B. Newby, 91-101. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Okerson, Ann Shumelda, and O'Donnell, James J., eds. 1995. Scholarly Journals at the Crossroads: A Subversive Proposal for Electronic Publishing. Washington: Office of Scientific & Academic Publishing, Association of Research Libraries.

Religious and Theological Abstracts. Myerstown, PA: Religious and Theological Abstracts.

Online Publications

Adair, James R., and Durusau, Patrick, eds. 1997. Offline 57. World Wide Web page.

Broman, Vincent 1996. Review of New Testament Greek Manuscripts: Variant Readings Arranged in Horizontal Lines against Codex Vaticanus, edited by Reuben J. Swanson. TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism 1.

Committee on Institutional Cooperation. World Wide Web page.

Committee on Institutional Cooperation Electronic Journals Collection. World Wide Web page.

Extensible Markup Language (XML). World Wide Web page.

Finney, Tim 1996. "Manuscript Transmission Simulation Program." C Program.

Journal of Buddhist Ethics. World Wide Web site.

Journal of Hebrew Scriptures. World Wide Web site.

Kiraz, George Anton 1996. "Comparative Edition of the Syriac Gospels: Final Report and Announcement of Publication." TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism 1.

Mynatt, Daniel S. 1996. 'A Misunderstood Masorah Parva Note in L for r:(U)"l.' TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism 1.

Online Computer Library Center. World Wide Web page.

Persistent URL Home Page. World Wide Web page.

Religious and Theological Abstracts Home Page. World Wide Web page.

Scholars Press fonts. FTP site.

The SGML Web Page. World Wide Web site.

TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism. FTP site.

TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism. World Wide Web page.

Uniform Resources Names. World Wide Web page.

Washburn, David L. 1996. "The King is Weeping: A Textual/Grammatical Note on 2 Sam 19:2." TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism 1.

Washburn, David L. 1996a. "The King is Weeping: A Textual/Grammatical Note on 2 Sam 19:2." TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism 1.