Open Access Culture

The traditional academic journal publishing model has readers pay very steep fees for access. Open access publishers are challenging this model with a new one that allows free public access, with costs paid by submission fees. The sustainability of the open access has been the subject of much debate. We’ve linked to a Nature forum on the topic twice. (Public Library of Science and BioMed Central, two standard-bearers for open access publishing, each use Creative Commons licenses.)

Whether the “creator pays” model is sustainable for academic publishing or not, it is clear to me that is how much culture gets created. A few days ago an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, Venture capitalist rewrites the starving-author story, illustrates with an extreme case and in passing mentions that the venerable (and entirely subscription-funded) Kirkus Reviews is launching pay-to-be-reviewed ($350) service available to self publishers.

The only thing atypical about the wealthy author in the aforementioned article is that he’s spending lots of money to promote his novel. In the typical case the creator doesn’t have money for promotion but does bear the cost of creation — think self-published (and many “published”) authors, bands without commercial appeal, and artists with a day job of all sorts. They pay the costs of creation (and obtain its beneifts), perhaps as a labor of love, but it’s “creator pays” nonetheless.

Advocates of open access to academic journals were clever to call their model “open access” rather than “creator pays”. Artists who bear the costs of creation anyway ought to think about taking a bit of this cleverness and making their works explicitly “open access”. Could it be that there’s a way to do that? Surely anticlimactic for readers of this blog — get a Creative Commons license.

Dare I mention that with a Creative Commons license people can find your work and you can use the Internet Archive’s free service for hosting and bandwidth?