Everybody I have met in academia uses recently-published journals entirely through electronic means. They may print out articles for their own use, but they will not receive printed subscriptions.

Does anybody receive modern journals in printed form nowadays? If so, who and why?

  • 4
    At least somebody does. I keep getting a doctor's issues of Cell because he used to live in my apartment. – Jonathan Landrum May 9 '14 at 13:13
  • The authors published in a given issue often do too (even if they otherwise read the journal in electronic form). – Relaxed May 9 '14 at 19:01

I do.

I have print subscriptions to three major journals in my field, all through optional add-ons to society memberships.

I do so for three reasons:

  • It forces me to read and interact with the literature. Online tables of contents, journal RSS feeds etc. can be ignored because another staff meeting is coming up, I really should submit an abstract, etc. The arrival of a printed journal gives me an excuse once a month/quarter/every two weeks etc. to sit down and engage with my field.
  • I read articles I would not otherwise read. General society journals have papers in areas that are not strictly my field. Sometimes, I read these, because I know the authors, liked a particular plot while I was flipping through, or because it pings my curiousity. I rarely read PDF papers outside my field.
  • Journals are more durable than print-and-staple publications. They live in my bag. I read them at lunch. I read them in the bathroom. I read them at the gym. I do things to them that I wouldn't dare do to either an iPad or other electronic reader or a few flimsy pieces of copier paper.
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Very few individuals receive printed copies of journals anymore, but many institutions pay for print copies as well as online access. In part, I suspect this is because many publishers make this part of the sold "package." However, an additional motivation for keeping a print copy is that most publishers do not allow for "archival" downloading—libraries cannot maintain their own copy of the publishers' website. Thus, if anything happens to the website, the institute would temporarily or permanently lose all access to the information if only an online subscription existed.

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  • 11
    In some instances when you sign up for a professional organization membership, you get the organization's journal subscription too. If you don't uncheck the box that says that you'll be getting a print copy of the journal, you get a hardcopy in the mail until your membership dues expire. – Emme May 4 '14 at 21:20
  • 3
    "Very few individuals receive printed copies of journals anymore" [citation needed] – 410 gone May 5 '14 at 12:13
  • Even when archival electronic copies are available (e.g. in the current Springer contract with France), academic institution may lack experience and time to properly manage and store them. We also have much less certainty about how long we can keep them in good and readable shape. However, print copies from many commercial publishers are so bad quality now that we probably don't now how long we will be able to read them either. – Benoît Kloeckner May 9 '14 at 13:06

My library receives print copies of about 300 journals; I do browse new issues almost daily, and it has happened more than once that I found papers that did not reached me through other means (arXiv, bibliographical searches, toc alerts, etc.)

However, in my department (pure maths) we seem to be little more than two people doing this. The other one is retired. I might be a romantic when it comes to scientific journals.

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I wish all questions here were yes/no questions.


  1. Yes.
  2. Most of my colleagues.
  3. Presumably for the same reason that most people prefer physical books to e-books when they read. It's also much quicker and easier to browse through the volumes of a journal on your bookshelf than to do so online.
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