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Long-term trends in the number of crystallographic papers published annually in all journals during the last 20 years differ substantially from those in the International Union of Crystallography (IUCr) journals during the same period. The IUCr journals published about 7.5% of all crystallographic papers in 1968, a proportion that increased to about 11% in 1987. The total number of papers in all fields abstracted by Chemical Abstracts Service increased annually by about 6.5% before 1979, but only by about 1.5% thereafter. The breadth of crystallographic coverage in the IUCr journals is comparable to and generally more consistent than that of other leading journals, but many important areas are severely under-represented in comparison with the coverage at the last IUCr Congress of Crystallography. Subscription costs for 15 journals that publish the largest number of crystallographic papers varied in 1986 from 2.3 to 11.8 US cents per 1000 characters, excluding journals with page charges. Acta Crystallographica cost 3.5 US cents per 1000 characters in 1986. The mean publication time for the only monthly IUCr journal is generally under 4 months, comparing well with the leading competitive journals publishing crystallographic papers. Relationships with the crystallographic databases continue to evolve constructively. Innovative publishing methods of relevance to all journals include the use of compuscripts, automated optical character recognition, machine-readable binary-coded print information, electronic publication and other non-print article distribution. The state of the IUCr journals is expected to remain robust as the total number of high-quality papers published continues to increase and the extent of crystallographic coverage broadens further.
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