Why aren’t great open access journals more widely read and cited? I am sure that the people who think about these things professionally know the real answer to this, but here’s my answer: alerting monopolies.
We are ‘alerted’ (made aware) of new content in AAA journals because the AAA ‘pushes’ alerts to us — in the old days, they used to actually send you a paper copy of the journal. These days there are email alerts, twitter alerts, and other ways of reaching anthropological audiences. A lot of these methods are opt-in, so you have to actually go sign up to receive emails about new issues. But because we interact with the AAA website and organization regularly, it is much easier to get people to sign up for these alerts.
If you are the kind of person who already knows about Tipiti and reads it regularly, on the other hand, then you are already savvy enough to hunt down some of the more obscure edges of the Internet for open access content. But how will the more mainstream anthropologists get signed up for alerting and be able to locate content from these journals?
It’s an interesting question. I’m increasingly thinking that as the amount of open access material increases we need to build services on top of it to aid discovery — as the old methods of publication change the old ways that scholars process them will probably have to change as well.