Presentation made by Mary Waltham at the Association of American Publishers- Professional and Scholarly Publishing (AAP/PSP) Annual Meeting on February 8th 2000 in Washington DC.

"Links without Kinks"

The purpose of this presentation:
To provide a broad outline of the key issues publishers need  to consider in building and developing a linking strategy for their publications whether these are books, journals or newsletters. The content is not technical. Put simply it is intended to answer the question -'What are the per publisher decisions required in forming a cohesive approach to linking and how can publishers go about making them?'

A) Why link?


 It is the heart and soul of the WWW


 Users want it and increasingly will demand reference links across disciplines, publishers and media.


 It allows quick access to information


 Links provide a clear pathway for readers and this is in the best interests of publishers, and authors. Remember information is our business and we must continue to attract the highest quality authors.

B) To whom?

 Reliable access to information is the key. Links to information that is not maintained well, bad links will annoy and frustrate users. Part of the consistent value added by a publisher may include checking and reconfirming links to information on the WWW. Publishers need to be selective but apply consistent criteria in deciding who to link to. For example, will you link to every published article the author cites, and will you also link to every web site author cites? Consider the maintenance costs of the criteria you adopt before making a policy at the outset. See also go to reference linking discussion paper for a detailed look at how Digital Object Identifiers can be used as embedded hyper link pointers in citations.
Remember that if a link goes dead - remove it for everyone's benefit.

C) When to link?

Maybe it doesn't matter but let us consider three different scenarios:

References go live:.


 as soon as the article is available on your web site increasingly this is in advance of print, so your electronic version will be more valuable because it is not only available earlier but also the reader is connected to all the references in the articles, or


 on publication of the print journal so the issue goes live in two formats print and electronic with all reference links in place at the same time, or


 after publication although there is no reason for that unless the publisher cannot get the links in place in time

 One idea to consider carefully is that those who want information immediately are generally willing to pay more than those who are willing to wait. The model discussed by Hal Varian in Market Structure in the Network Age of versioning information may be valuable here. For the three scenarios described above, the organization or individual willing to pay the most will get the fully linked version earliest and could also get a number of added value services such as video/audio and additional material.

D) What are the opportunities and threats of reference linking?



Articles you publish are read more and so are likely to be cited more; in some sense a citation is the only proof of reading for an author or a publisher. Citation will be of continuing importance to authors in choosing where to publish.


New customers will continually flow into your site from other sites and articles on those sites, and so you have a chance to interest them in other services that only you can supply.


As a publisher perhaps you are likely to become more visible.



Will you lose subscriptions by offering article by article access to your publications? In a sense you are unbundling your journals through reference linking, since many journals are simply bundles of articles. Can you make up lost subscription revenues by online document delivery/pay per view?


In joining a cooperative linking group individual brands and trademarks may disappear how important is this? How valuable is the name you wrap around your journals? What value does it carry in your marketplace?


In joining a group are you in fact taking an irreversible step and becoming subordinated to the management of that group. How the group is managed and resourced will have a terrific impact on your future success but as part of a larger group - you may have relatively little control.


What if the linking group falls apart? How do you explain failure to your employer or governing boards? Do you have a fall back position? (I believe in always having a fall back position)


If you don't get involved with a group on reference linking, are you in fact becoming invisible to your market?

E) Legal issues

 Since copyright and trademark issues are not at all clear on linking, and one conservative estimate is that the legal system is always about 20 years behind technology, then in general publishers are choosing to establish a legal framework for their linking with other publishers. These are written and executed agreements preferably common to the entire  linking group, that provide rules on how, the system will operate. In entering into such agreements publishers need to decide about:


Derivative works will the site allow these and on what basis? There is considerable discussion about this point. Derivative works can be defined as any works created for sale repackaged -using only other copyright holders content. Although the argument is not clear-cut, the creation of any derivative work of another's images without permission is copyright infringement.


Trademark infringement in linking all your content is there a chance for a third party to use your trademark in a way that is likely to cause confusion/ mistaken identity?

 (See also this site to keep up to date with the "link controversy" and this site go to the Internet segment for more on the existing legal precedence on linking.)

Less of a legal issue but one to watch out for:


Robots these are programs that search the WWW for the purpose of indexing content. Occasionally programs can be written irresponsibly and released onto the WWW. Then robots will cause problems by; for example, tying up server time and demanding large amounts of information, so preventing access by other users. A publisher needs to understand the site policy on this. Key questions to ask include - "What information do robots have access to and how is this defined on the site?"

F) Linking Etiquette

 Since the law is less than clear on many of these issues some linking etiquette is evolving such as:


Hyper links must be correctly labeled.


Framing is frowned on because it can mislead the viewer of a  site as to the creator of the content. Frames are often used to  subdivide web pages- so you can see that framing third party  information into another web page can seriously raise the issue  of copyright infringement.


Linkers must be careful that a user can tell where a hyper linked  resource comes from so never link directly to a graphic,  for example, without permission.


When picking a target page to link to do not do so with the intention  of avoiding advertising or user tracking pages.


Owners of content linked to have the right to request  notification of the hyper links established by the  linker but no more than once a week!
See also for more on linking etiquette.

G) Business models

This area is full of unknowns but one great advantage of the online world is that it is easy to monitor buyers' and sellers' behavior.

The business model put in place by a publisher with respect to linking -  may be predefined by the linking group joined - for example Hi Wire press prefer one toll free link per 'member journal' within the Hi wire site, or perhaps you will meet the do your own thing policy of the Cross Ref group!

If publishing had not evolved past the business models set up in the 19th Century then ownership would clearly determine them. Society and association publishers were established to serve the needs of their membership, and to improve scholarly communication. In this case is there not a powerful argument for making all reference links open and documents free?
Whereas commercial publishers exist to reward shareholders -who have shown confidence in the publishers ability to make money -by investing in them so presumably links must be protected and a charge made for all documents accessed?

Whatever the situation you as publisher probably do need to go through the discipline of deciding the value to you and to the reader of a document you have published on the WWW the so called economic viability of the transaction.


Firstly, calculate the absolute cost of producing the document the so-called first copy costs and decide if the print and electronic versions of your journal should share an allocation of this cost. In the longer term should each version of the publication survive on its own profit and loss?


Estimate how many non- subscribers will (now) access the article, and decide whether what/if you charge should be driven by costs or market rate? In other words if you lower the rate will you expand the market  increasing the number of readers who come to your site rather than using other sources of this information?


Should access to all your research articles be free? How many subscriptions would you lose? Should you view online access to full text a bit like photocopying for which you receive no royalty? Can you see a way to developing more business - from other sources - by providing this particular information free?


If you charge for linked access to your pages- should you charge by the age of the material and hence its currency? ie for the freshly published articles but not for the older material where do you draw that line and why?


If you charge should you charge more for a news or review piece where you have usually added more value?

 If we conclude that users have different willingness to pay, and if producers or sellers cannot or will not price discriminate, than all users will end up buying at the price determined by the actual buyer with the lowest willingness to pay. See also Varian: Pricing Electronic Journals

H) Technical points

Only two quick ones:

Once you have decided to join a linking group - check how good a job the search engine does in finding your articles.


If you include an interstitial page on which you explain that you are charging for the information that follows then make it quick and simple to deal with.

 (See"Technology Issues and Electronic Copyright Management Systems" by Pedro Isaias for an interesting article on payment systems and security techniques in the Internet and the importance of these technologies in Electronic Copyright Management Systems.)

In summary: The key point to bear in mind as you determine your linking strategy is to understand the value of the electronic linked document you have published to different categories of users.


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