Letters to the Editor



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Am Fam Physician. 2008 Nov 1;78(9):1020.

Rationale for Providing Some AFP Content Online Only

TO THE EDITOR: I have been a subscriber to American Family Physician (AFP) for many years. My suggestion concerns the recent increase in online-only supplemental content. Although more content is good, I read the print version of AFP for its portability, and often read it away from Internet access. When reading an article, it is disconcerting to find that, in the middle of an article, a table or figure is available only online. If the content is important enough, include it in the print version of the article. If the content is truly supplementary, add it at the end of the print version, as is often done with information that is “for further reading.”

Author disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

IN REPLY: I can understand the frustration with not having certain content immediately available in the print version of AFP. Let me explain why we think having online-only content serves the greater good. First, we have limited space available in the print version. We routinely have to ask authors to trim their original manuscripts to fit, and authors routinely protest that they cannot cover all the important points they would like to make. Readers tell us they like our articles to be succinct, because of the limited time they have to read them. However, they also value the large body of content that is available when searching for clinical information online.

We really do not have the option of adding “appendixes” or “supplement material” to the print versions of our articles. But, in the online age, we increasingly will post material online only that previously would not have been published at all. Overall, we think that the momentary inconvenience of not having additional content readily available in print is superseded by the value of having that content available when searching for the topic online in the future. Think of it from the perspective of the online user: you are searching for clinical information online and are able to access additional material, such as screening tools, clinical questionnaires, tables, and figures that would not have been available if we had to confine ourselves to the print version. We look for more ways to take advantage of Web publishing, and enhance AFP's online version, to make it more than a static replica of the print version.

Moreover, we view the online version of AFP as the “official” version, for several reasons: (1) it has slightly more content than the print version; (2) we are able to make corrections to the online version, improving its accuracy (something we are unable to do with the print version); and (3) for most readers, the online version is more readily accessible when searching for clinical information—be it an answer to a clinical question, or looking for general medical content. It is easier to search the 10 years of AFP that are available online than it is to thumb through the print issues.

We do prioritize what content goes into the print version, and what material is supplemental online. We are very interested in hearing from readers about how we can improve the functionality of the online version and how to make it an even more useful reference tool for your practice. If you have any suggestions, please contact us at afpedit@aafp.org.

Send letters to Kenneth W. Lin, MD, MPH, Associate Deputy Editor for AFP Online, e-mail: afplet@aafp.org, or 11400 Tomahawk Creek Pkwy., Leawood, KS 66211-2680.

Please include your complete address, e-mail address, and telephone number. Letters should be fewer than 400 words and limited to six references, one table or figure, and three authors.

Letters submitted for publication in AFP must not be submitted to any other publication. Possible conflicts of interest must be disclosed at time of submission. Submission of a letter will be construed as granting the American Academy of Family Physicians permission to publish the letter in any of its publications in any form. The editors may edit letters to meet style and space requirements.


Copyright © 2008 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
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