The feasibility of electronic journals : some studies in human-computer interaction
Computer-based tools for communication are a recent technological development. They promise to provide new routes by which to communicate with others and to transform some communications that have hitherto been dependent on media such as paper. One example is the possibility of supporting scholarly communication by the use of electronic systems, which also promises a method by which the information explosion might be handled. The research is an examinat4on of whether or not the support of scholarly communication in this way is feasible. To investigate communication systems requires a large scale study over a long period. Accordingly the research rests on a study programme on 'electronic journals', BLEND, which ran from 1980 to 1984, funded by the British Library Research and Development Department. The feasibility of ielectronic journals is investigated by exploring the usability, utility, likeability and cost-effectiveness of the communications system. An analysis of the frequency and distribution of the use of the computer-based communications system showed that many things seemed to get in the way of accessing it. Several techniques were used to examine this: transaction recording, interviews, telephone surveys, questionnaires and analysis of requests for help. Once the system was accessed, a comparison of users' aims with actual use shows that different forms of the journal should be explored in the future. Two reasons for the access rate and type of use made of the system was the degree to which researchers were able to accommodate the use of a new communications system into existing patterns of work and the level of usability of the system. One area in usability that is explored in detail is the way that text can be read easily on a screen. The cost-effectiveness of the system is examined by projecting from actual costs and patterns of use. The final chapters bring together the studies in a 'Barrier' framework for understanding the use of a communications system and look forward to the future of electronic journals.