An open access case study

The “current issue of the journal Games and Culture”: is running an article I’ve written with the scarily erudite Kate Lingley. The topic is fear of video game addiction and mental illness in China, and it appears in a special themed issue on gaming in East Asia. If you want to read the other articles in the journal and your library doesn’t subscribe to Games and Culture, you will have to ILL them or pay US$15 to download a PDF. If you want to read my article, however, you can “download it for free”: or even “check out the preprint on Mana’o”: Let me take this as a case study in open access…

When Lingley and I started working on the article, I began looking at open access possibilities. The first thing I asked was: what are this journal’s policies on open access? I found the answer to this question at “RoMEO”: — Romeo is a service run by the open access project “Sherpa”: in the UK. Its incredibly easy to use — all you do is type in the name of the journal you are publishing in, and they tell you what its policies are. They parse all the legal forms and keep their database up to date so you don’t have to wade through the legalese. They are a great, responsible, and very professional service.

So Romeo told me that Games and Culture would allow me post my pre-print (i.e. my page proofs) but that I had to wait 1 year before I could archive my post-print. Now for most people this is fine, since page proofs are pretty much finished projects. But because I am an open access nut I wanted to do more — I wanted to make sure the final version of our article was available to everyone.

What I had to do was change the author’s agreement — the contract that you sign before a publisher publishes your stuff. But how to deal with all that legalese when you’re not a lawyer? Easy — “SPARC”:, another open access organization developed by the Association for Research Libraries, has a wide variety of “open access resources”: The most important for me is their “resources on author’s rights”:, including the “SPARC author’s addendum”: You just print this out, fill it out, and attach it with your author’s agreement — it keeps you from signing away your right to post PDFs of your work (for nonprofit purposes).

Most publishers I’ve encountered don’t have any problem with the SPARC addendum, but Games and Culture did, because they are owned by Sage, which is part of the Big Content conglomerate that’s trying to take punk rock away from the kids. So in due course I got an email from the publisher saying that they wouldn’t accept my addendum, but would be willing to work with me to find other solutions to my concerns.

I told them that I wanted the article to be open, since many anthropologists didn’t read Games and Culture and the subscriber base was still relatively small. They agreed to make my article free for download for the first three month it appeared, and then to also open it up over the course of the periodic ‘free trials’ that they offer — roughly three months out of the year. The result is that my article will be available for download 6 out of the 12 months before I get control back over the post-print.

The end result: success! Using simple tools like RoMEO and the SPARC author’s addendum my work is now (mostly) open. Readers benefit from access to my research, I benefit from increased publicity for my work, Games and Culture gets a lengthy plug on my blog, and Sage gets a positive write up as well.

The moral of this story are simple: open accessing your work is incredibly easy if you use the tools that others have made for you, and journals are willing to compromise. If anything, anthropologists fixated on the belief that the only possible business model for journals is closed access, pay for content underestimate the flexibility and innovation of the publishing industry. And visions of punitive publishers take you to court for insisting on retaining the rights that you as an author have are vastly over estimated.

So go for it — the next time you publish something, try taking these simple steps. And then email your postprint or preprint to and we’ll help make your work available for all.


Alex Golub is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. His book Leviathans at The Gold Mine has been published by Duke University Press. You can contact him at

3 thoughts on “An open access case study

  1. Rex, your pursuit of open access and your challenge to the publisher is great. I’d be curious to know what happens with your article now, for example, if you’ll see an increase in citation, etc. on the basis of your opening of your work.

  2. Way to go, Alex!
    SPARC has picked up your blog posting and is circulating it as the “success story” it is and as an exemplar for other authors

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