Thursday, April 3, 2008

Open access and the cost of articles

I'm no expert in the economics of scholarly journals, but I don't think publishers will want to drop their prices very much. I doubt they make much money selling articles. The purpose for the high prices is not to make money. Rather, it is to restrict access to those with subscriptions (whether individual or institutional), hoping that people like us will go ahead and subscribe (or get our libraries to subscribe). One solution is for the authors of articles to self-archive them on the internet so that they can be downloaded by readers (see my post on this, with links to other sites). Universities and other institutions should set up institutional repositories for this purpose. When that doesn't happen (because universities like my own Arizona State University drag their feet), authors should scan their articles and post them on personal web sites (as I do). If authors get enough emails pestering them for pdfs of articles, it may help spur them to post them on the internet.

So if you want a copy of an article, email the author. And if you think it unfair for commercial (and other) publishers to limit access to the results of research, help support efforts toward open access of various kinds. A good place to start is Peter Suber's overview of open access, and his blog.


david meadows said...

Sorry ... I can't buy the 'subscription' argument; if that were the case, the publishers would have no problem giving 'open access' to journal issues that were, say, over five years old (or whatever). But that's what JSTOR is (in theory) and they obfuscate things behind their 'moving wall' policy:

Through the moving wall, JSTOR seeks to avoid jeopardizing publishers' subscriptions and revenue opportunities from current and recent material, while also enabling libraries and researchers to rely on JSTOR as a trusted accessible archive, providing both preservation and access for journals after a reasonable period of time. This balancing of interests among publishers, libraries, and scholars is at the center of our approach to pursuing JSTOR's Mission and Goals.

The balance is there for publishers and libraries, perhaps, but the assumption that the only 'scholars' out there are skating the hallways of the ivory towers is what doesn't make sense. Why shouldn't I -- in the year 2008 -- be able to access JSTOR while not either taking or teaching a course at a major university?

PA said...

Unfortunately, if you are scanning and posting the as-published versions of your own articles, you are likely to be violating the copyrights, which are now owned by the publishers.

For now, the best things to do are: find an OA journal to publish in, deposit in an institutional repository (if possible), and/or self-archive a "similar" version to the one which is published, for instance the peer-reviewed pre-print. Also, push for an expansion of OA!

Michael E. Smith said...

Frankly I don't care if I am violating copyright by posting MY OWN publications on MY OWN web page. I understand that universities and other institutions need to worry about this. However, the "reprint button" feature from
Eprints provides a convenient way for institutional repositories to post the full published pdf versions of articles without violating copyright: