Speaking yesterday at a symposium honoring the new Temple University President, Bryn Geffert, the College Librarian at Amherst, made a strong case that academic publishing isn’t long for this world under its current business model.
Imagine a biologist at Amherst who writes a science article. Who paid for her to write that article? Amherst. But who paid Amherst? Students. Alumni and donors. US funds.
Now it’s accepted by Elsevier. The biologist gives it to Elsevier as a gift, in effect. Elsevier charges Amherst $24,000/year for a subscription to this particular journal. It’s Looney Tunes, Bryn says. There isn’t a worse imaginable model.
Since 1986, serial [= journal] prices have increased 400%. Why? Because a few publishers have a monopoly: Wiley, Elsevier, Springer. With increasing prices for serials, libraries have less money for books. In 1986, academic libraries spent 46% of budgets on books. Now it’s down to 22%. And the effect on book publishers is even worse: when they can’t sell books to libraries, they shut down publishing in entire disciplinary fields. The average sales per academic book is now 200 copies.
Worse yet is the impact on developing countries. They cannot afford to buy the work they need.
The answer, in part, per Geffert is open access. Get everything online. Publish to the Internet with the schools employing editors.
What’s this have to do with law schools?
Law schools are publishing. Law professors writing and editing casebooks and hornbooks. Law professors and law students writing and editing law reviews and journals.
But law school publishing appears to be far from open today. Casebooks and hornbooks aren’t free online. Neither are law reviews nor law journal articles.
Not only are law schools and law students paying for this content, but there’s a very limited readership and no collaboration or interaction with the content.
Bring that content online through blogging and the costs to publish and access becomes minimal. In addition, the content will be commented upon and referenced in other law blogs. Learning and advancement of the law, the goal of academic legal publishing, is accelerated and contributed to by so many more people.
How much interaction is there between practicing lawyers and academic legal publishers, whether law professor or law student? Minimal, if any.
Imagine an open access blog based publishing network empowered by a law school. Law professors could blog. Students could blog. Alums whether practicing lawyers, clerks, judges, law professors, or business people could blog.
A law school becomes a learning network benefiting all of its members. Law professors. Law students. Alumni. Legal professionals with no previous association with the school.
Costs are reduced. Learning is advanced. The brand of the law school is extended.
Makes sense, doesn’t it?