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H-Net Community: Building Bridges

Historians Debate Value of Circulating
Book Reviews on Line

The Chronicle of Higher Education
Date: January 19, 1996
Section: Information Technology
Page: A21

The growing use of Internet mailing lists to circulate book reviews proved to be a controversial topic at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association.

In the past year, H-Net, a scholarly project that includes 50 mailing lists in various subfields of history, has published more than 400 book reviews, with about 1,300 more in the pipeline.

Mark Kornbluh, an assistant professor of history at Michigan State University who coordinates the book-review project, told a panel discussion that electronic reviews can be published more quickly than printed versions and provide reviewers with more space.

But other historians at the meeting had qualms over the electronic reviews.

Christopher Tomlins, a historian with the American Bar Foundation and editor of Law and History Review, said his journal had considered publishing electronic reviews but decided not to do so. "We felt it might be a death blow to our own journal," he said.

Moreover, he and others questioned whether the speedier publication and greater length of electronic reviews were necessarily good. "The reviews that I admire most," he said, "are reviews that manage to be succinct."

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