Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Conundrum of Open Access

“Open Access” is still something I am trying to get my head around.  John Willinsky tells us in his energetic video that he is fighting for Open Access for all educational content/articles/books.  He tells us that at present time it costs between $23 and $45 to download an educational article from, I presume, the average publishing house. Amazon, perhaps?   While it will cost the average citizen only 99c to download Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga.  The difference of course is that thousands will download Justin Bieber but only one or two academic students will download an educational publication.  It's called 'Economies of Scale'.

Now a law has been passed in the American congress that requires ‘any recipient of public funding’ who publishes an educational article to publish for free within 12 months of origination.

That seems to me to be very fair.  But what about contributors to academia who are not publicly funded?  What happens there?

On reflection I wrote a thesis way back in 1992 which now sits in the Leeds University Library.  I wrote it in fulfillment of my Masters.  My reward was not money in the bank, but an education (and a qualification) which made me a more marketable and respected provider of services to an employer.

Our University of Zimbabwe and National University of Science and Technology is, theoretically anyway, publicly funded.  Nonetheless students are not educated there for free. 

So I remain confused.  What exactly does John Willinsky mean by ‘Open Access’ and how will it affect citizen Joe as a contributor and a receiver of educational content?

Contributions welcome!

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