Understanding the Economic Burden of Scholarly Publishing

Cathy N. Davidson, Tidsskriftet for Universiteternes Efter- og Videreuddannelse, Sept 28, 2003
Commentary by Stephen Downes

I always worry when authors take a lot of time arguing that "move beyond hand-wringing and finger-pointing" because it means that, at a certain level, the author does not want to look at the cause of the issue. And what we get - at least to my perspective - is a prescription that amounts to a bunch of tinkering with the existing system, rather than something that addresses the underlying causes. The author, for example, uggests that the crisis in publishing could be addressed by paying mandatory dues to academic associations, offering book subsidies to junior academics, replacing royalties with rax write-offs and battling competing with commercial publishers. But why, I ask, would we not simply abandon book publishing altogether and enbrace a system of self-archiving? The author writes, "electronic publishing isn't easy, and it isn't cheap." Well, that depends on what you're trying to do. My entire corpus of written material has been provided online for less than the cost of a couple of nights out. But I'm not trying to get my stuff peer-reviewed, and I'm not trying to implement e-commerce or access control. There is much more discussion on this issue, including comments at The Invisible Adjunct, Chun, and more.
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