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The Access Principle: The Case for Open Access to Research and Scholarship

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An argument for extending the circulation of knowledge with new publishing technologies considers scholarly, economic, philosophical, and practical issues. Questions about access to scholarship go back farther than recent debates over subscription prices, rights, and electronic archives suggest. The great libraries of the past - from the fabled collection at Alexandria to the early public libraries of nineteenth-century America - stood as arguments for increasing access. In The Access Principle, John Willinsky describes the latest chapter in this ongoing story - online open access publishing by scholarly journals - and makes a case for open access as a public good. A commitment to scholarly work, writes Willinsky, carries with it a responsibility to circulate that work as widely as possible: this is the access principle. In the digital age, that responsibility includes exploring new publishing technologies and economic models to improve access to scholarly work. Wide circulation adds value to published work; it is a significant aspect of its claim to be knowledge. The right to know and the right to be known are inextricably mixed. the best-equipped lab at a leading research university and a teacher struggling to find resources in an impoverished high school. Willinsky describes different types of access - the New England Journal of Medicine, for example, grants open access to issues six months after initial publication, and First Monday forgoes a print edition and makes its contents immediately accessible at no cost. He discusses the contradictions of copyright law, the reading of research, and the economic viability of open access. He also considers broader themes of public access to knowledge, human rights issues, lessons from publishing history, and epistemological vanities. The debate over open access, writes Willinsky, raises crucial questions about the place of scholarly work in a larger world - and about the future of knowledge.

287 pages, Hardcover

First published October 1, 2005

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John Willinsky

15 books4 followers

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Displaying 1 - 12 of 12 reviews
Profile Image for Kat Saunders.
208 reviews4 followers
June 4, 2019
A thorough--if not somewhat repetitive--introduction to the advantages of open access.
Profile Image for Michael.
907 reviews135 followers
November 18, 2009
This book covers the principle and concept of open access scholarship from a supportive and positive standpoint. Willinsky is very clear from his introduction that he intends to promote open access as preferable to traditional "toll-gated" models of scholarly publishing. This being the case, the book is necessarily polemical, but nonetheless useful. As with many digital-age topics, this is a very dynamic issue, and in fact the book at times seems dated, although it is only five years old (most of the data seems to have been collected only through 2003, however, suggesting a lag in publication). It serves to give a solid grounding in the issues around oa, but must be supplemented by more current sources for a complete view. This reviewer recommends reading this in conjunction with Scholarly Communications for Librarians.
Profile Image for Chris.
163 reviews1 follower
June 26, 2021
I read this (now fairly dated) book on open access to get a better understanding of the state of information science 15 years ago, before I entered the profession. Many of the ideas, decisions and models from that time have a huge impact on how Open Access, and many related issues, are viewed and addressed (or not addressed) today. This book is quite through in providing that background, and in that respect, was useful. However, about halfway through Willinsky shifted from arguing the benefits of Open Access publication and why authors, publishers, etc should want to present their research in this way to declaring access to scholarly information a human right and going off on some Jeffersonian fantasy of well informed citizens doing comprehensive scholarly journal article research on every issue in their local PTA and reading up on the latest research on their casual hobbies which took up the remainder of the book.
Profile Image for K8.
238 reviews24 followers
January 7, 2009
My primary complaint is that it seems shallow - Willinsky is trying to cover so much ground that he doesn't cover any of it in depth. Some of this superficiality includes not referencing research in related areas, and instead implying that this research hasn't been done (i.e. new media studies, online reading practices, online technical writing).

And he treats the issue of open access in a way that implies that everyone will have access to the material items necessary to access scholarly work if they are only 'printed' in digital environments - he actually suggests that having printed copies of journals takes away money better spent on open digitization. I'm all for increasing electronic access, but we shouldn't assume that all scholars (and he does discuss oa on a global scale) have access to technology, dependable electricity, etc.
Profile Image for Eric Phetteplace.
354 reviews64 followers
September 21, 2010
A solid introduction to open access and related issues in scholarly publishing. Willinsky paints with broad strokes, which is both the best and worst part of this book: he touches on just about every conceivable advantage of open access, but many of the chapters are overly idealistic and not grounded in any substantive empirical evidence. There are plenty of positive ideas, but little pragmatic advice. The final chapter on "History" is almost entirely irrelevant, just anecdotes about "Philosophical Transactions". As an LIS student, I can't say that any part of this book was revelatory, but I thought Willinsky did a good job and looking at the issue from every angle and pulling in some unexpected references (Derrida, Hardt & Negri).
Profile Image for Coral.
226 reviews9 followers
September 26, 2008
This is probably deserving of a closer reading than I gave it. The only chapter I read in its entirety was the final chapter, an abbreviated history of scholarly writing. But I like Willinsky's ideas. And most of the book is freely available on the Internet; what isn't is ILL-able from Penn State's libraries. :)
Profile Image for Sarah.
967 reviews27 followers
May 23, 2008
According to Willinsky, the right to know is a basic human right; without it, informed discourse is impossible. Open access to knowledge is essential to fostering democratic participation and creating a climate of government accountability.
39 reviews3 followers
February 14, 2009
Brilliant, important book. There's no reason why most scholarly research should be available to everyone, for free. I hope to discuss his ideas at an upcoming yale conference on the future of the library on 4/4/09.
Profile Image for Jesus.
89 reviews
December 21, 2007
Information about the workings of the human body being available as a human rights issue is a valid question. Willinsky explores this idea as an abstract concept. Okay bibliography.
Profile Image for Cara.
470 reviews
March 12, 2010
This is a good basic introduction to open access. However, I was already familiar with many of the principles and found the writing style to be kind of dry.
Displaying 1 - 12 of 12 reviews

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