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Keir Graff and editors from Booklist's adult and youth departments write candidly about books, book reviewing, and the publishing industry

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008 3:38 pm
Most of You Wouldn’t Pay for It Anyway
Posted by: Keir Graff

More in a similar vein–except substitute Harvard for Oprah. And periodicals for books. From the New York Times (“At Harvard, a Proposal to Publish Free on the Web,” by Patricia Cohen):

Publish or perish has long been the burden of every aspiring university professor. But the question the Harvard faculty will decide on Tuesday is whether to publish – on the Web, at least – free.

Faculty members are scheduled to vote on a measure that would permit Harvard to distribute their scholarship online, instead of signing exclusive agreements with scholarly journals that often have tiny readerships and high subscription costs.

The concept–an open-access publishing system that would require authors to “opt out” if they didn’t want their works to be published for free–is, of course, controversial. And, as one prof notes, it’s redundant in a way, because already, thanks to technology, "any professor who wants to put his or her article up online can."

And Stuart Shieber, a professor of computer science, proves the value of a Harvard education:

"As far as I know, everyone I’ve ever talked to is supportive of the underlying principle. Still there is a difference between an underlying principle and specific proposal."



2 Responses to “Most of You Wouldn’t Pay for It Anyway”
  1. Barbara Fister Says:

    But hey, they voted for, quite enthusiastically.

    And for the record, academic libraries pay for it – lots of money. In fact, it’s a big reason why libraries have trouble buying books – they’re subscribing to journals that a few people on their campus might read whose costs keep going up. And the content and much of the labor is also contributed for free. Admittedly, there are costs involved in publishing journals, but the system as it is now has been broken for many years.

    Libraries have tried opt in – and it hasn’t worked. Darnton is showing real backbone, and I’m all for it.

  2. Keir Says:

    It’s a fair question–in publishing models where the content and much of the labor are contributed for free, why is the end result so darn expensive?

    When I broke in, getting ten cents a word writing for a free weekly, I sometimes resented my low pay–but at least the stuff I wrote was available to anyone who wanted to pick up the paper or visit the website.

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