Best of Both Worlds: Now Online and In Print

Of late, the academy has been wrestling with a number of publication trends, including the increasing prevalence of online writing.  Many question whether blogging counts for tenure.  Others debate the cachet of online journals. 

An exciting development has emerged, one that serves as a bridge between the past and the present: the publication of shorter works online that later appear in print.  For instance, the Washington University Law Review has just announced that in the fall, it will begin publishing concise scholarly pieces (approximately 2,500 words) online followed by publication in the print edition.  Authors get the benefit of the law review’s excellent editorial feedback (I speak from experience) and a chance to write scholarly commentary that can find an audience quickly (as compared to the print process). 

This allows scholars to enjoy the “best of both worlds.”  Academics get the benefits of blogging (quick access to an interested audience) yet with more space to develop their ideas.  They also enjoy publishing in an esteemed law review, which will generate more readers.  It may even demonstrate that such writing has a place in a junior academic’s scholarly portfolio.  Kudos–this is a valuable development for academic discourse.

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7 Responses

  1. A.W. says:

    personally i think that the journals should increasingly just give their product away. maybe stuff it with adds like a newpaper article, and then say “you can only reproduce this with the adds” in the copyright release.

    The reason why i say this is that there shouldn’t be a firewall between the general public and the legal academy. we SHOULD be sharing our thoughts and ideas, both to inform the public and maybe even get a little feedback. Alot of ideas that sound great on paper wither in the face of real world experience.

    Indeed, i am sure Glenn Reynolds would be first to say a more “open-source” approach to academics generally is probablyl a good thing. That is you post it online, let not just your peers review it, but regular folks, too. you never know when a person might have a good point even if they don’t have the right “letters” after their name.

    For instance, imagine if Sotomayor posted her “wise latina” comment online back when she made it. maybe someone would have read it, and actually said, “you know what? that sounds pretty racist.” and maybe she would have realized this was a problem before she repeated it 5 or 6 times.

  2. Howard Wasserman says:

    Interesting. Do you know where the announcement is? I could not find it on the WUSL home page.

    This, of course, is one journal doing, on its own, what several journals are doing as the “Legal Workshop” ( The more interesting thing to me remains how we are going to treat short, original, on-line only pieces.

  3. Danielle Citron says:

    Howard, I am sure the announcement is coming soon. I received an email from the editor of new commentary publishing about it. Yes, and it will be interesting to see the academy respond to stand alone online work over time. Thanks A.W. and Howard for the comments.

  4. Anon says:

    This doesn’t really address the fundamental problem for law journals – the print subscription market is drying up (especially among law firms) and even the main law reviews at top schools are increasingly finding themselves unable to remain financially self-sufficient without substantial endowment or other revenues (e.g., ads or the Blue Book, which are both at risk from on-line competitors too). This could go two possible ways: (1) Some top journal is going to go all electronic and then the wall will topple and all journals will follow, or (2) Law schools will increase their subsidy of journals (beyond the free rent and overhead they now provide) and increasingly exert more control over those journals, via changes to board and member selection criteria and timing, oversight on article selection, etc. Neither path seems like the end of the world and both have some advantages. The problem of speed of publication vis-a-vis blogs and other electronic media really pales in comparison to the financial difficulty already hitting many journals.

  5. A.W. says:


    For the record, my rate of typos decrease hourly. So at 9:19 a.m. the typo fairy was sprinkling her dust all over my comment. lol

    Still, my apologies.

  6. I was curious about the announcement, too. I was combing through WUSL and couldn’t find anything. I suppose I’ll just have to wait…

  7. Danielle Citron says:

    I bet that we hear more from WULR soon as I received the heads-up email from the Commentary editor yesterday. It is a new initiative and I am so glad that readers are interested. Yes, it will be so interesting to see if, or when, journals move their publication online. I remain a fan of print, perhaps because I love being surrounded by books and newspapers (my age is showing here). But I also appreciate online writing immensely so it strikes me as brilliant to wed the two, at least until we can get on board the cyberspace writing express in a more robust way. The market forces here are indeed a concern, as Anon astutely notes. So it is a wait and see, I suppose. And AW no worries about the typos, I didn’t notice! Thanks all, Danielle