Editorials

The BMJ's website scales up

BMJ 1998; 316 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.316.7138.1109 (Published 11 April 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;316:1109

Now it provides free access to full text

  1. Tony Delamothe, Web editor (tdelamothe@bmj.com),
  2. Richard Smith, Editor
  1. BMJ
  2. BMJ

    Three years ago, it was hard to find a medical journal on the internet. Now most have websites, providing selections from their paper journals in electronic form. This week the BMJ joins the Lancet and a host of specialist journals in taking the obvious next step: providing the full text of the paper journal online. Soon most other medical journals interested in their long term survival will follow suit.

    If “surfing the net” has become the defining catchphrase of the age then the wave we caught three years ago has turned out to be a tsunami. Since the world wide web was first used commercially the number of websites has grown exponentially. When the BMJ launched its original website in May 1995 there were fewer than 20 000 other websites. Last month the total was 2.1m.1 The number of people online has also been growing exponentially—to an estimated 107m.2 The widespread adoption of webTV should increase this figure by at least an order of magnitude.

    The BMJ embraced the world wide web so avidly because it looked like fun and offered an almost miraculous escape from the limitations of paper publication. Costly and cumbersome, the printing presses and binding lines take 30 hours to churn out the 117 000 copies of the paper BMJ each week. The Royal Mail takes another day or two to deliver copies to most addresses in the United Kingdom. Further afield, the delays rapidly escalate—four days to get journals to continental Europe, two to three weeks to Australia. The resources we devote to increasing topicality are wasted for most of our non-UK readers.

    By comparison, the electronic journal is available to all countries with world wide web access at 00.01 (GMT or BST) on the Friday preceding the cover date. The geographical reach …

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