In recent years interest in science publishing has broadened and now extends well beyond the narrow confines of publishing professionals. Publishers, librarians and distribution agents all have their own forums for discussion. This collection of essays is an attempt to bring professional publishers a bit closer to the large community they serve: authors, editors scientists/readers, as well as other partners and colleagues in the collection and distribution of information. Science publishing has grown as a result of the extension of services provided by publishers to scientists and experts from the outset of formation of (new) disciplines.
The time frame has been set to cover actors and developments in the 20th century, noting that major innovations like the Internet have only made an impact since 1990 and the World Wide Web since 1995. Also, science publishing has a history stretching back for many centuries. While concentrating on some of the leading actors of the past century, some characteristic features introduced before 1900 are commented upon. In the second half of the book we attempt to cover key trends and innovations which have had an impact on our industry — notably since World War II. Transition in the language(s) of science has also meant transition in the locations where management of communications takes place.
At the start of the past century there were comparatively few scientists, and that holds true (to a lesser degree) for the period around 1950 as well. Their mode of communication with colleagues, be it through correspondence by letter, visits to key colleagues and institutions, membership of societies, and attendance at conferences, is considered as background to several of the contributions. Formal publications were through books and journals and this system has been preserved throughout the 20th century. No-one denies the massive changes which have taken place over this period, the increase in the number of scientists and the large measure of internationalization. The evolution of the Internet and the Web has resulted in a large information garbage belt in which many valuable pieces can be found — sometimes only after great effort.
All participants in the science publishing chain (or circle as some observers prefer, from the scientist/author to the scientist/reader) have been affected by innovations ranging from the mechanical typewriter, photocopying, telecommunications, computers, all the way to database and search technologies. Today the Internet involves millions of servers and billions of homepages. Communication between scientists and the role of publishers and other actors are no doubt subject to change. On the other hand, last month a journalist commenting on the year 2000 performance of market leader Reed-Elsevier used the headline “a second life for the dinosaurs”. Is the old saying “plus ça change, c'est plus la même chose” still applicable?
An additional reason to put together this collection has been to celebrate two of my colleagues who at this time have served 50 years in the publishing profession: Seiji Sato in 1999 and Hans Kruschwitz this year. I take this occasion also to express sincere thanks to my family and colleagues, too many to thank individually, for having made this publication possible.
E.H. Fredriksson, Amsterdam, April 2001