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Early studies of electronic journals (e-journals) viewed the web as a technological discontinuity that would deem traditional academic publishing null. This article uses the industry life cycle framework as a lens to examine the formation of academic e-journals. The article proposes five factors affecting the academic publishing dominant design selection process, and examines these factors against six longitudinal case studies. The study concludes that from technical/functional, economic and market perspectives, e-journals are superior to paper journals (p-journals). However, academic social norms and the managerial processes needed to establish and maintain e-journals are more influential on their formation than the capabilities provided by the new technology. In addition, the long-term sustainability and survivability of e-journals depend on the administrative and managerial processes established by its management team. This study demonstrates that although the web enables a large number of new entrants and a variety of business and technical models, e-journals are a competency-enhancing innovation that relies on the existing expertise of professional publishers and the journal's ability to support the social and cultural needs of academia.