Easily the biggest concern with open access is the cost; while there is no cost to the reader to obtain articles from open access journals, there is still a significant cost that the journals must pay to disseminate the information. This was one of the most interesting topics of this week’s readings for me. It is so obvious that there are still costs for open access journals, but this is not something I had thought about at all. I first started to think about this when John Willinksy┬ádiscussed PLoS Biology and how the authors or institutions supporting the authors paid $1,500 in order to have their work be open access. That number caught me off guard. $1,500 for each article! It is so expensive to offer your work for free!
However, that is due to the nature of our trade. In order for the hard work that historians do to frame an argument and offer a credible view, the readers need to see the view as credible. Rick Anderson does a good job of framing the importance of peer review when disseminating research. His article brought me back to the beginning of the semester when one of the authors discussed tenure-track and posed the question on whether or not digital work would qualify. The problem with digital work for advancing a career arises when it cannot be peer reviewed. Having research reviewed by other historians in the field lends some credibility to the topic. It tells a reader that other historians in the field have read the article and found it to be worth publishing (even for those article only published online).

The chapter by Lawrence Lessig was very helpful in helping me understand all the complications with copyright control when dealing with the Internet. The fact that copyright controls change drastically online is both concerning and fascinating. I have to wonder which form authors and publishers prefer: the traditional copyright structure for analog books, or the copyright structure for online works which provides more control to the authors and publishers. I was shocked with Lessig’s example of a book published online being able to legally be restricted to the amount of times one person can read it in a given amount of time. I understand that each time it is being read a new copy is made, but restricting the amount of times it can be read? That seems absolutely ridiculous to me. I think, perhaps, working through my thoughts as I type, this restriction would make sense with a PDF download; which is likely what Lessig was referring to now that I think about it. Each download of the PDF would create a new copy, but wouldn’t it be easy to restrict the amount of downloads from one IP Address? Under a restriction like that, why would there be any concern of it being “read” more than the allotted amount? Either way, another concern for open access online for historians is respecting the rights of the copyright holder and the copyright holder being able to maintain their rights.


The Wikipedia assignment was an…experience. I decided to look into the Student Army Training Corps (SATC)┬ásince that was the topic of my senior thesis and the way I used the World War I Collection previously. The SATC was a very short lived government program that had the goal of keep men in education so the country would not be left with unskilled men while simultaneously training these men for the military. I did a few searches, but this topic currently does not exist on Wikipedia. If I had more time to dedicate to secondary sources research, I would love to create this article. However, I only had one secondary source in my thesis that discussed the SATC (at least that I used); the rest of my sources were primary ones from the Illinois College Archives (ranging from letters, official documents, local newspaper clippings, and articles from the College newspaper The Rambler). Instead of trying my luck with an abundant of primary sources, I decided to edit the page on the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC). The SATC and ROTC were linked, in a way, during WWI. Those students who instructors saw real promise in through the SATC were recommended for the ROTC (one of the letters in the collection I am using mentions a student being recommended for the ROTC).
Currently, my edit is still up with no corrections made.

2 thoughts on “Open Access

  1. Lacey, I think I was right with you on the perspectives that various authors offered, although I did read about the fake article being submitted back in the day and was shocked then about how expensive it was! The author pay model really does seem more like a vanity press publication, which have always been viewed with some suspicion… I actually knew exactly what he was talking about with digital books because this is how digital copies of books held by the library work. If you check out a digital book from mason they automatically retract it once the term is up – and the public library will only purchase the rights to have x amount of copies that can be in use at one time – even though the text could theoretically be read by unlimited numbers of people.

  2. Lessig’s chapter was also helpful for me; I hadn’t thought about the differences necessary in copyright for digital works as opposed to traditional print media either. While I understood the issue of PDFs being downloaded multiple times, I also wondered about just limiting downloads by IP Address or instead allowing users to just “check out” the article as some journals do (you download it for free, it is available for a certain amount of time and then the file becomes inaccessible) though I honestly don’t even really understand the need for that either.

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