Re: Etymology of "Eprint"

From: Albert Henderson <NobleStation_at_COMPUSERVE.COM>
Date: Tue, 22 Aug 2000 16:55:11 -0400

on 22 Aug 2000 Fytton Rowland <J.F.Rowland_at_LBORO.AC.UK> wrote:
> John Smith wrote:
> >This clashes with my definition of a 'pre-print'. As far as I am aware
> >this term arises from the provision by many journal publishers of printed
> >copies of papers in their final form to authors in advance of the formal
> >publication so they could distribute them to colleagues. So they were not
> >unrefereed or unaccepted just not formally published. The act of
> >distibuting papers in advance of submission for publication I would
> >describe as the circulation of 'working papers' or 'work in progress'.
> >
> >This provision of paper 'pre-prints' may still happen. I have some
> >provided by an Indian journal which published a paper of mine in 1996.
> >
> >Regards,
> >
> >John Smith,
> >University of Kent at Canterbury, UK.
> John,
> I'm afraid I don't agree with your definition. Having worked in scholarly
> publication in hot-metal days, I can say that it was not possible to
> produce offprints of the accepted papers very long before publication. The
> way they were produced was to print extra copies of the journal but not
> bind them. The unbound sheets were then stapled up into offprints of the
> individual articles and supplied to the authors. But they went out at more
> or less the same time as the actual journal copies went off to libraries.
> Authors called them "reprints", but actually nothing had been reprinted, so
> properly they were offprints. They weren't preprints.
> But in the USA thirty or so years ago an effort was made to organise a
> preprint exchange, which really did distribute paper (photo)copies of
> as-yet unaccepted typescripts. It eventually collapsed for two reasons:
> many scientists objected to the distribution of non-refereed material as
> debasing the currency; and the costs involved, especially postage costs for
> pritned materials in large quantity, became too high. I think there was
> also a feeling that it created a privileged class of people who were on the
> mailing list, leaving others unable to get hold of the material so early.

The preprint exchange of the 1960s was documented all too briefly.

In his 1979 COMMUNICATION: THE ESSENCE OF SCIENCE William D Garvey says,

        distribution of preprints (copies of a journal-article manuscript)
        constitutes another form of journal authors' prepublication
        dissemination ... it can usually be relied upon as a relatively
        'finished' report. (63)

The American Institute of Physics produced a report titled THE ROLE AND DISTRIBUTION
Liffey and Gerald Zaltman (August 25, 1967). It says:

        Terminology problems start with the heart-word "preprints."
        A "preprint" used to be an advance print of an article,
        book chapter, monograph, etc., which was intended for
        publicaation. It has come to be used very loosely to cover
        almost any written communication outside of the established
        literature. This has led to much semantic confusion and it
        has plagued this study project. One man's "report" is
        another's "preprint" and yet another's "manuscript."

        As a result, we felt it would be better to avoid using the
        term "preprint" as far as possible. We will instead use the
        term "written informal communication" which we will abbreviate
        as "WIC", to indicate the inclusion of the entire family of
        written communications outside of the established literature.
        This family will be considered to include reprints at one end
        of the spectrum and "notes" and multiple-address letters at
        the other..... (p. 1-2)

The NIH Information Exchange Groups experiment 1961-66 never released a
final report, to the best of my knowledge.

So you see little has changed in all this time.

Albert Henderson
Received on Mon Jan 24 2000 - 19:17:43 GMT

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