George Monbiot’s Guardian article about access to journal articles prompted a vigorous debate in certain corners of the blogosphere, some of the fruits of which I have gathered here (having purloined them from a Facebook friend; I would gladly post a link to his website or blog, only he doesn’t have one!)
My idea that academic articles might be illegally file-shared turns out to be anything but far-fetched, as this excellent piece by Matthew Ingram highlights. Disquietingly, it also notes how publication via open-access platforms could prove to be “a career-limiting move for an academic” in a world where professional progression necessitates work appearing in the right journals. That said, not all academic institutions are complicit in this; Princeton for one seems to be pursuing a more enlightened approach with its academics and their output, albeit one with at least one major caveat as things stand at present.
The matter of the high price of some academic books was something I hadn’t considered in this context until I read a post by Jeffrey Cohen on the excellent In The Middle blog. Prior to becoming impoverished – financially, that is – by travelling, I used to think nothing of spending large sums of money each month buying such books. Admittedly most were sourced through Amazon Marketplace, which got around the high cost of some first-hand volumes (and what’s a scuffed or stained cover when it spends most of its life on a shelf between other books?), plus I have a tendency to ask Santa for more expensive publications, but it’s certainly going to be an issue for me now that I can no longer easily access a university library with a first-class medieval reference collection. Again file-sharing is one (illegal) answer – as I alluded to in my post on e-books a couple of months ago – but it would seem that a lot of the onus for broadening the availability of books should fall upon their publishers. From what Cohen writes it seems some are more flexible and innovative in making changes for the better than others.