Academic publishing is in trouble – this is not news for anyone even tangentially linked to Academia but bears repeating anyway in particular as it is becoming a topic in the mainstream press as well.
So, here the summary. Just as in all publishing, dare I say all aspects of lie, the rise of the internet and online publications have brought a huge change. It could have been a change for the better, widening access to research pubications and allowing more and more people from all walks of life access to knowledge.
It wasn’t. Mainly becasue publishers also cottoned onto the idea that for a lot less money (no printing costs and by using a lot of free labour) you can now get payed for an online publication by a lot more people. That all would have worked fine – if not for the concept of greed. When a publisher demands 600 Pounds for an online copy of a book that costs 80 in the shop, it becomes an issue.
The result is rich universities having access to electronic publications which allows their students to access knowledge everywhere and everywhen and smaller universities being stuck with one single paper copy (let’s be honest – 80 Pounds for a book is not cheap either) which only one students at a time has access to leaving the others without hte knowledge they need for the exam, essay or project they are working on.
This does not even, as yet, address all the fees involved in reading a paper which can easlily come to 40-60 Pounds a paper. And whilst Universities and Academics have been moaning about this for years it appears that the recent reports on 40% profits at Elsevir have galvanised them into more concrete action. Good on them. Let’s hope they will persevere.