Open Access for the Few?

Hardly a day goes buy that I don’t see an email, Facebook post, or Tweet asking for access to some academic PDF or another. I’m all for anything that erodes the awful paywall system that academic publishers have erected in order to preserve a broken model, but it bothers me that the reality of the current system is that a small coterie of academics have the equivalent of open access, while the rest of the world is blocked out. If I really need access to an article right now, I’m pretty sure someone at a major research library would email me a copy, but if someone who isn’t an academic wants that same article they are unlikely to be able to call upon their social network in the same way. What is really absurd about this system is that it is the people least able to pay for access who are the most likely to have to pay.

11 thoughts on “Open Access for the Few?

  1. The whole system is broken and flawed. In theory, I’m an academic but just a PhD candidate. I have no means to pay 20+$ for an article I have no idea would be useful at all. However don’t see the way it may change any time soon.

  2. I had to ask a friend for a copy of an online-only article a couple weeks ago, as my library doesn’t subscribe to the resource (nor will they) and couldn’t seem to get it via inter-library loan. This is especially galling considering my own article will be coming out in this publication soon. I will literally have no valid access to something I wrote unless I pay for it myself! It’s crazy that people who might want to read it (students, in particular, as it’s an annotated bibliography) probably don’t have access to it.

  3. This has a lot of appeal as a classic social systems problem. Everyone has a stable of information providers in their social network and we use those people in different ways for different kinds of information. “If you needed an article on X and couldn’t get it, who would be the first person you ask?” And what if they didn’t have it and you had to ask someone else, who would be next on down the line. You could chart that out like kinship and a gift exchange pattern might emerge.

  4. Kristina, perhaps your article could be made available online as a pre-print? If you give me the info, I can see what the publisher allows and, if deposit is possible, put it in the Mana’o anthro repository for you.

  5. This article once again highlights the inevitability of the Open Access movement, which will remove paywalls and make information accessible for all.
    In the meantime, I would encourage folks who don’t have access to paywall journals to visit their local university or college library. Often, guess access is provided so that visitors can use the library’s electronic resources and download articles themselves.

  6. I can’t speak for the article mentioned above from a journal that is unavailable through inter library loan, and I agree with the original post, but if you are not connected to an academic institution, many public libraries also have inter library programs–even tiny libraries participate in state-wide consortia or state library programs, have access to Worldcat and make use of it to serve their communities. And a reminder that while there are freely available journals as in the many in the DOAJ, many open access projects are supported by libraries and, in fact, it is a growing trend.

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