WHY PUBLISH ON THE WEB?


The question is obvious: "Why publish on the Web?" The most frequent answer from colleagues is predictable, although it may never be uttered: "What's the matter; can't you find a publisher?" If I did not believe there were a number of other, more valid reasons for presenting one's work on the Web, my book in progress, The U.S. Army and Irregular Warfare , would not be available for viewing.

I was already thinking about a Web publication when I visited the home page of William F. Sharpe, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics. At that site I found something very encouraging, an investment text that Professor Sharpe called "an Electronic Work in Progress." As he said in his presentation of the work on his Home Page, "In simpler times, this would have been a book (either a textbook or a reference book, depending on your point of view)."

Unlike Sharpe, I lack the credentials of a Nobel Laureate, but we do have one thing in common. My work, like his, has appeared piecemeal, over an extended period of time, and like Sharpe's text, The U.S. Army and Irregular Warfare began as an electronic work in progress. Still, the basic question remains to be answered: Why publish on the Web?

To be candid, however, I must admit to having at least one additional motive for deciding to publish on the Web. As a tenured professor at a small college, I am under no pressure to publish. Many of my younger colleagues in history and other departments are not so fortunate. If they are to fulfill the expectations often set for them, then they will need opportunities to get their work before their peers, and Web publication is one way to do that. It will not be considered valuable, however, until other scholars pave the way, making Web publication a legitimate endeavor worthy of rewards comparable to those accompanying publication in more traditional forms. With luck, I will help to achieve that kind of recognition for faculty members at this and other institutions by having chosen to present my work as I have here.

Publishing on the Web does present at least two problems for an author.

Web publication also creates a significant problem for readers. Since many Web publications, including the one on this site, have not gone through a process of peer review, how can a reader determine the reliability of the information being viewed? In the case of this specific site, I would like to think that any claim to value for what is written in the electronic work found here is supported by the following:

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Last updated: Nov. 2002
John M. Gates jgates@wooster.edu