Why Sci Tech Publishers Fight Online Innovation: Money

January 10, 2020

Who reads academic papers? Give up.

Answer: Other academics, students, and curious people with an interest in often arcane research.

Here’s another question: What characteristic do many of these journal readers share?

Answer: A desire to zoom through information without paying.

“The Unstoppable Rise of Sci Hub: How Does a New Generation of Researchers Perceive Sci Hub?” explains:

Interestingly, Sci-Hub’s attraction, unlike RG’s, is not its social media features (it has none), but that it offers free and relatively easy access to millions of papers harvested (illegally) from publishers’ websites. It is an open one-stop full-text warehouse, which is thought to be more convenient to use than clunky heavily regulated library platforms. There is another, possibly, more important explanation for Sci-Hub’s popularity and that is it speaks to ECRs’ sharing beliefs and open access (OA) sympathies.

The write up closes with this statement:

The bigger question is whether in the longer term Sci-Hub will still exist? The answer is: not in its current form, but, as Napster was for music, it might be the precursor to the collapse of the status quo. However, unlike ResearchGate [this is a European commercial online site for sci tech types to share information] However, unlike RG, Sci-Hub does not have the opportunity to sell its platform, there is no advertising, or ‘social networking’ to obtain vital user data that it can monetize; it is a pure and unashamed ‘pirate’.

The write up is worded in a polite way. The message seems clear, even in rural Kentucky: Professional database publishers are likely to face continued pressure from journal readers who want to cut the cost of information.

What will professional publishers do? Their historical behavior: Raise prices. Innovative? The approach has worked before.

Stephen E Arnold, January 10, 2020


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