Isn’t “Open Source” academic publishing kind of a moot point?

As I finish up sorting through my RSS feed, I have to note posts from Alex, Jeff, and (via Jeff) Anne regarding Dana Boyd’s call for academics to boycott closed/”locked down” journals. It’s all kind of interesting in an, um, academic way; but is this dust-up really all that relevant?

Boyd seems to be kinda steamed because her article in the journal Convergence is not just “out there” on the Internets for one and all to grab for free/as an open source document. Without getting into the pros and cons of all this (though I think I agree with the general sentiment of folks I link to above, that while open source is a good idea, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to boycott journals that haven’t gone that route), I guess I am just having a hard time getting too excited one way or the other about this. Yes, I can’t get Boyd’s article directly from the Internets. But we also have this old-timey academic technology called “the library,” and from there, I am sure I will be able to access this article, either electronically or, if EMU doesn’t subscribe to Convergence, via inter-library loan. The last time I got an article via interlibrary loan, they emailed it to me as a PDF. So while this might not be as open and as easy if it were “just there” on the web and while the EMU library probably doesn’t do this for people coming in off the street (though they might, actually), it’s still pretty quick and open and accessible if you ask me.

One of the things that most of these (kind of, but not really) closed access journals get you is paper, and paper, as I discuss in this section of version 2.0 of my article “Where Do I List This on My CV?” can matter. Granted, these closed (but again, not really) journals don’t have the reach of stuff that’s just up on the ‘net; on the other hand, paper doesn’t just disappear, which is something I experienced with the first version of this piece.

Besides, if Boyd (or anyone else) wants to put up an academic article that they wrote up on the web, well, go ahead. Anne makes a point of saying that she has written this into contracts for things that she’s published. That’s probably the legal and proper way of doing things, but I don’t think that’s even necessary. As I wrote in this article (also in the section I quote above), plenty of scholars in my field just put things up on the web– Carolyn Miller, Michael Day, most of the people in my blogroll, etc. I haven’t gotten around to it yet, but I intend to make links to PDF versions of stuff I published that came out in closed journals available under the “Scholarship/CV” tab. If some academic publisher wants to email me and tell me to take it down, then I will. But really, is that going to happen?

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