Readersforum's Blog

September 1, 2011

So when does academic publishing get disrupted?

    By Mathew Ingram

Anyone who has been following the travails of the publishing industry knows that the business is in the throes of widespread disruption, thanks to the rise of the web and digital publishing, and what Om has called the “democracy of distribution.” But as author and academic George Monbiot points out in a recent piece in The Guardian, there is one large publishing market that not only remains undisrupted but continues to produce huge returns for those who control it: the publishing of academic journals. Why has this market been able to resist the tide of change sweeping through the rest of the industry, and what will it take to finally disrupt it?

As Monbiot notes, while newspapers like the New York Times  and Rupert Murdoch’s Sunday Times  have erected paywalls that are aimed at charging readers pennies per copy for their digital content, reading a single article in an academic journal published by a company such as Reed-Elsevier or Wiley can cost you as much as $40. And it’s not just the end reader who pays: the libraries that subscribe to these journals and magazines have to pay tens of thousands of dollars a year for access to each title — in some cases as much as $20,000 for a single journal.

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