Sunday, March 18, 2012

"Open" Access

Edited on 3/19/12 to add: Site statistics tell me that this post has been linked to at another blog, so I just wanted to add, for any reader who came here via there, that I don't actually agree with the commentary that was made there with respect to my post. Yes, I think that this practice is outrageous and rather akin to usury. Yes, I reserve special ire for Brill and Routledge/T&F because their costs are so unspeakably outrageous. But I don't actually either predict or hope for the downfall of the publishing house or the academic press as institutions, even and particularly university presses in spite of their recent trend towards publishing fewer books in any given year. I think that the editorial process is incredibly valuable and can't easily be replicated in a self-publishing environment. And I think that the rise of digital humanities is really exciting, but I also know, because I do know a bunch of really interesting people doing work in this area, that that's not simply going to take the form of digitization of scholarly monographs; it's a different thing entirely -- a completely different conception of how to present information -- that is still going to leave room for the traditional academic book. Plus just as a rule, I don't generally condone wanton name-calling. Re-edited on 4/1/12: And if I were going to engage in extended name-calling of other people in the profession, at a minimum I'd do it with a more extensive vocabulary.

I woke up this morning to notification that I have the option of approving open access for a short essay that I have forthcoming. Open access is great, since many academic journals are archived digitally in a way that requires affiliation with an institution that subscribes to them for access; and since many university libraries are cutting back on their subscription budges and many academics just don't have jobs, the more open access, the better, really. I was slightly aware that there is frequently a cost to the author to make his or her work available freely online, so with a bit of trepidation, I clicked on the link in the email, which took me to the following screen.

(Click to enlarge to a readable size.)

That there would be a cost to me is an understatement, as it turns out. $3,250?!

Open access isn't one of those things I feel tremendous passion about, nor is it one about which I've done tons of research and reading about how it can work in pushing digital humanities forward. I do have colleagues who advocate for it, and in what little reading I have done, I have seen that some universities want to move towards requiring open access for anything that will be included in the tenure dossier. But when the cost to offer that kind of access to a piddling little under-2000-words essay -- not even a major research article! and not even everything I'm going to publish this year! -- is greater than the sum total of my annual research budget, there's really not much I can do. T&F guidelines say that I can put a post-production typescript up on my own web page, so I'll definitely do that, but my ability to participate in creating a centrally-located archival database of a journal is totally curtailed.


  1. Wow... I had never done much research on open access. Theoretically, it sounds great, but not if the worker has to bear the cost of it.

    "I have seen that some universities want to move towards requiring open access for anything that will be included in the tenure dossier"

    Do they provide some kind of grants to make this possible?

  2. On some level, I'm sort of hoping that I really badly misunderstood this whole thing, but it doesn't seem to be the case. The one uni that I've read semi-detailed plans for such a requirement didn't offer grants. As I said, this isn't a battle I'm necessarily looking to pick and so I didn't commit the details to memory enough to remember now if there was a recommendation for a way around it; but even if there were, I'm not sure that unis agitating to change the process would be sufficient to get the presses to do it, or that there would even be a critical mass of institutions that would place enough value on open access to bother.