I noticed this morning in my Facebook newsfeed that someone had posted a link to a Guardian article on the exorbitant prices institutions and Joe Public have to pay for online access to leading journals, written by the ever-brilliant George Monbiot. As the subject is a personal bugbear of mine I felt it only right that I should share it here.
The link I’m posting – http://www.monbiot.com/2011/08/29/the-lairds-of-learning/ – is to Monbiot’s original text, which differs from his published article and doesn’t look as nice, but does give references to back up his argument; finding the Guardian version will not require any great effort, I imagine.
Of course what Monbiot has written won’t change a sausage; academia seems to be well and truly over the publishers’ barrel. I’m particularly grateful to the article for its detailed explanation of why so many of those journals that have gone electronic are incarcerated behind mighty thick paywalls. Yet at the same time I struggle to see how in this day and age academic journals can justify not making their content (both current and archive) available online, although in the field of medieval studies it is fairly hit-and-miss what has made it on to the web and what has not (perhaps it comes with the territory).
It’s a tought nut to crack. Certainly it’s hard to see a way in which the situation might change any time soon. Other than file sharing (and I’m being half serious), the only way around it that has occurred to me so far is that academics show more initiative and make their work available via their university or personal profiles. For instance, it was only the other day that I rediscovered this article by Ryan Lavelle of the University of Winchester, available via his excellent (indeed exceptional) personal website. Many of leading landscape archaeologist Stephen Rippon’s published articles were available in full for free via the University of Exeter website, and still might be – I couldn’t find it off the back of a brief search just now. Then again there may be a different approach to copyright taken by publishers who holds the rights to reproducing articles from the likes of the Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeological Society online to those from major national and international journal titles. Still, Mary Beard married academic life and blogging and look where that got her. And amazingly enough, her A Don’s Life blog is not, it would seem, out of reach behind the Times‘ famous paywall!
Finally, if you don’t know it already, for God’s sake do yourself a favour and check out the journals page of the ADS website for free content from a range of journals – the Surrey Archaeological Collections included!