The “latest issue of Anthropology News”:http://www.anthrosource.net/toc/an/2007/48/4 is out and features “an op-ed by yours truly”:http://www.anthrosource.net/doi/abs/10.1525/an.2007.48.4.6 on open access publishing and the AAA (you can read “the full text of the piece here”:http://alex.golub.name/res/writing/Golub2007b.pdf). Actually that is not quite true. The piece is not really about open access anthropology — it is about closed-access anthropology, the “reader-pays” model that the AAA currently to fund its publication program. At the last AAAs it became clear to me that the biggest problem that sectional publications (think American Ethnologist and Medical Anthropology Quarterly) were having was staying in the black. In an atmosphere were the costs of publication threatened the existence of journals themselves, no one was interested in talking about open access because “giving it away for free” was perceived as an even worse situation than the one that journals were currently in.
So in fact the focus of the piece is not on open access, but reader-pays business models and the unspoken assumption that many at the AAA that they are a tried and true method of keeping journals afloat when compared to the utopian but supposedly ultimately suicidal open access option. The goal of the piece is simply to point out something that everyone already knows but conveniently forgets when they begin talking about open access — namely, that the current reader-pays model for funding AAA publications is broken and has been broken for a long time.
The key, I claim, is that an ethical commitment to open access has prompted an entire community to develop what I clunkily call “open access-inspired business models”. That is to say, the open access community has developed methods to radically lower the cost of publishing and that these methods are what make some sort of open access a realistic option. The second half of the piece then focuses on what would have to happen for the AAA to attempt to incorporate some of these OA-inspired models in their own publishing program. Personally, I’m not holding my breath. But it is important for people to realize that it is the open access model (and all that it entails), not the reader-pays model, that is financially ‘realistic’. Check it out.