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Our Readers Write to Us (and we respond)


You already know this, but I think it bears mention. The Web began as a tool to help scientists communicate their ideas in a more timely and effective manner, using the Internet. And now, some 15+ years later, after commercialization and much utter waste of bandwidth with useless crap, your journal comes along, using the latest in authoring technology to fulfill the original promise of the Web. It's about time. Congratulations, you should be proud of your creation.

Patrick Edwards
Ocean Drilling Program


re PE....great....saves time & money for everyone....& a bunch of trees!

John Baker (William Paterson University,N.J.)

Outstanding concept + execution (re: PALAEONTOLOGIA ELECTRONICA) !

Overseeing such an endeavor no doubt was, and remains, a time-consuming endeavor, but it is greatly appreciated by a great many of us around the world. My sole regret is not having jumped on the option during the semester, when actively teaching Invert. Paleontology. Now I am aware of the superb resource and am amassing valuable hardcopy editorials, reviews, and articles.



Kennard B. Bork
Alumni Professor of Geology
Dept. of Geology & Geography
Denison University

...very strong stuff! PE is without a doubt one of the better uses of the internet I've seen, and let me tell you I've spent more than a little time online...

...dug the Media/Trash Science editorial very much; I agree with the writer that a little scientific vigilance could go a long way towards weeding out the sensationalist crap (frankly, those of us trying to write about .. real (science) could use the back up once in a while..). One more thing, one of the readers wrote asking that material be made more understandable for lay people. What about including a meta-abstract with each article; a brief plain-language summary of the findings, their significance, their shortcomings and where they fit into the grander scheme of things. Kind of like a Nature editorial, or even something like what we try to do? Might help to bring more lay people (and out-of-field scientists, like meat-head oceanographers and biologists) into the fold...

Tom Hayden

PE Note: We have followed this recommendation and now include plain language summaries of all technical articles. Due to the nature of the WWW a significant proportion of our readership are not professional paleontologists. These summaries make our articles more accessible to this portion of our readership.

August 6, 1998

…I certainly encourage your efforts to go electronic, and I am very grateful that you have an HTML version, and do not simply rely upon PDF as a satisfactory format for an electronic journal. In my opinion, PDF is only good for printout. We have been working on electronic information distribution for 7 years now, and our readers prefer HTML over PDF by a 6 to 1 margin.

I (would like to ) point out a couple of .. flaws in your journal. I am accessing your journal from Nantucket over a phone line, and your opening page has a 152K graphic which carries no information. Yet it is the graphic (that) is the anchor, so I have to wait for it to download. This is not pleasant for your readers. To add insult to injury, the same graphic is repeated twice on the second page to the tune of additional image files of size 79K and 33K... Even with mirror sites in Switzerland and Spain, this would be essentially inaccessible from France.

…I also suggest that you add more links for navigating within the journal. A user who links, by whatever means, into the midst of a journal article, or directly from outside into a figure or the reference page, has no means to get back to the head of the article, or even to the home page of your journal. In a web-based world, we have to remember that there are multiple routes into all our pages, and we have to be sure we accommodate readers who arrive by all possible routes.

I read nothing in your web pages about how you will ensure that the electronic version will be accessible a decade from now, or even farther into the future. Readers will soon demand that electronic journal archives will have to have the full functionality and accessibility maintained into the foreseeable future. Your web pages do not speak to this problem. We have some solutions which work for us. Since we do all our production in SGML, have built up a library of software to make automatic translations from SGML into whatever format the current browsers support. We even have added capabilities to our early issues which were not available in the browsers at the time of publication, but which have since become standard (such as HTML tables). This will become a serious issue sooner rather than later, and I know the librarians worry about this issue a lot.

Peter B. Boyce
Senior Associate for Electronic Publishing American Astronomical Society

PE Note: At any time a reader can navigate back to the site contents by clicking on the PE logo, or on Site Contents in the navigation sidebars. We have reduced the size of graphics as one enters the site to aid readers with slower access speeds.

The issue of archiving is of considerable interest to us. We are continually striving, along with those in the field of library science, to ensure that the journal will be accessible for a long time to come. Also, about the long-term accessibility of PE articles ... our sponsorship agreements with the Paleontological Society (US) and th ePalaeontoloigcal Association (UK) stipulate that at the end of this year (1999) Volume 1 will be taken off the web, written to CD-ROM and delivered to the offices of these sponsors for distribution/sales to individuals and institutions. In addition, Coquina Press will supply a limited number of copies to selected academic electronic publications libraries free of charge in order to meet requirements of various nomenclatural bodies for recognition. We are concerned witht this accessibility issue and have made plans to ensure that PE volumes remain available over the long term.

I found Palaeontologia Electronica through a reference in the "EvangeList Digest," a Mac-oriented newslist. It referred to the article on using QuickTime VR. I took the time to look through some other features and articles. You have a great concept. I have had a long-time interest in paleontology, though my education in it is meager. I have eagerly read Stephen J. Gould's books and his columns in Natural History, plus other books on evolution and general paleontology, especially human origins and the evolution of horses. The concept you have should prove to be very interesting and useful in coming years. Thanks for taking the time and making the effort to make such information easily available.

George Slusher (Mech Engr/MIT), Lt Col, USAF (retired)
Eugene, OR

31 August 1998

This (Palaeontologia Electronica) is EXACTLY what librarians are hoping will happen, giving far more added value to electronic versions of scholarly journals.

If the electronic version is merely a carbon…copy of the paper version, it really isn't worth the added expense of equipment, lines, additional subscription costs, etc. over the sometimes exorbitant amount we pay for the paper edition. …Until we librarians are certain that electronic versions are being archived in a manner that will allow us to retrieve articles (for) many years, and many generations of computer, from now, we can't drop subscriptions to … important journals -- to do so might mean that that material may not exist 10 or 25 years from now.

Unless you scholars -- and, of course, the publishers -- give us that added value, the only

advantage of electronic versions is the ease with which you can retrieve and read materials from home or from your offices, saving you a trip to the library... and sorry, people, that really doesn't cut much ice with librarians who have extremely limited budgets to work with! If…reading a scholarly article can include any correspondence it generates, plus hot links to further articles and/or references in subsequent articles to that first article (and back to previous ones as well), then it is well worth the price to the librarians, the scholars, and the students.

Off my soapbox for now; I'll go back to quietly lurking....

Kathleen Thorne
Serials Librarian

I have checked the galley proof, and it looks great. I especially like the way you have included thumbnails of the illustrations with the text while allowing readers to get large, high-quality versions of the illustrations, too.

Thanks for all your work on this manuscript. It think it looks great, and seeing it bolsters my confidence in electronic publication all the more.

Best wishes,

Roger L. Kaesler
Paleontological Institute
The University of Kansas

I am an interested bystander to the science. I find plain-language summaries my only source of information. Indeed, it would be nice if you put the titles of your articles in a plain language version. Most of the time I can't figure out what the topic is.

Tom Jackson

Progressing through articles by successively clicking on section titles in the navigation bar on the left does not work well. This navigation style is best suited to contextually distinct pages, not successive pages of a single article. A much more user-friendly approach would be to supplement the navigation bar with simple "Back" and "Next" buttons on the bottom of each page. Most computer-savvy users a re use to these sorts of buttons and should find progression through the articles much easier.

Robert G. Eby

PE Note: We've taken Mr. Eby's request to heart. This issue includes NEXT buttons at the bottom of each text file. Readers can now navigate through an article with the use of the Contents sidebar or with the NEXT button.