A day before I received the ARCHIVES, my e-mail "in-box" included 2 requests for reprints. These requests were followed by individual letters making the same request and then by a deluge of preprinted postcards. My mail even included 2 letters complimenting me on my article and not asking for a reprint. All of which raises the question, "Whom should I oblige with a copy of my publication?"
Time was when requests for reprints were made only by those sufficiently interested in the article in question. The photocopier had not been invented, and copies of original publications were difficult to procure. All that has changed, and most popular medical journals are freely available, as are photocopy machines. One sometimes has to pay a few cents for a copy, but the expense, in terms of cost, time, and trouble, is far less than one would incur in complying with the request. I can understand requests from abroad, where some journals may be difficult to obtain, but what explanation is there for requests (with hospital and medical school addresses) from Massachusetts, California, and Washington? I suspect that readers who are blessed with a pool of secretaries check the articles they want and hand their list to their assistants. Preformatted cards are then prepared and dispatched in the mail, unsigned.