in Twessay Critical Responses

Twessay 1: Critical Response

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Experimenting with the 140 characters of my tweet was challenging but stimulating. I finally came up with this Twessay as I wanted to create a visual tweet, something that incorporated imagery into wording, and I wanted to make the visual aspect central to conveying my argument. Unfortunately, the box I constructed has a tendency for warping, so sometimes you just have to imagine the box-shape…

The central message in my tweet is that paywalling has evolved (from a legitimate e-commerce idea for newspapers and honest digital publishing) into a narrow-mindedness prevailing amongst academic publishers. This narrow-mindedness, fueled by greed, involves monetising academic journals and articles at such exorbitant costs that even relatively wealthy institutions such as Harvard University are struggling to pay for their subscriptions. [1] Therefore, I encourage my Tweeders (“tweet readers”–>it makes sense that Twessays have Tweeders, doesn’t it?) to “think outside the box” and promote accessible information – information that is not imprisoned behind an absurdly vast paywall, represented by the “box” (which is rather absurdly warped than absurdly vast) in my Twessay.

I understand reasonably-priced subscriptions for journals. After all, these people have to make a living as well, don’t they? The subscriptions we’re talking about are not reasonably-priced though. Take for instance Harvard University, whose library fees add up to a neat $3.5m [ibid]. Furthermore, the profit made – accounting to over 30% of the subscription cost – by these publishing companies is not distributed fairly among contributing academic writers and researchers, but instead streams into shareholders’ bank accounts. Take, for instance, Elsevier, a successful academic publishing company. For every $1.7m paid for a bundle of Elsevier-journal subscriptions, Elsevier shareholders line their pockets with $607,580 [2]. Corruption is clearly rampant amongst these companies, with “five for-profit academic publishers [now controlling] more than half of the science research produced worldwide.” [3]

Now, most academic libraries who can afford to pay such mind-blowing sums of money only grant access to library databases to students and staff who currently belong to the learning institution. This is not what I mean by “accessible” in my Twessay. “Accessible” information is something affordable to the average citizen (how much does one pay for a library card again?), or even better, free.

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I found Arlene’s question, “Should #openness be accessible 2 all medical institutions?”, thought-provoking as it presents us with an example of how Open Access can be useful and even, in cases of medical practice or research, life-saving. Is it really moral to taunt people with possibly vital information by locking it behing a ridiculously-sized paywall? Is it fair, just and honest for academic publishers to make profits of over 35% per year [4] as academic libraries have to cut back on investing in books because scholarly journals devour 65% of their budgets? [5]

This is hardly moral and principle-based money-making, is it?

[1] Sample, Ian, and science correspondent. “Harvard University Says It Can’t Afford Journal Publishers’ Prices.” The Guardian 24 Apr. 2012. The Guardian. Web. 21 Oct. 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/science/2012/apr/24/harvard-university-journal-publishers-prices

[2] “The Obscene Profits of Commercial Scholarly Publishers | Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week.” N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Oct. 2015. http://svpow.com/2012/01/13/the-obscene-profits-of-commercial-scholarly-publishers/

[3] “Five for-Profit Companies Control More than 50% of Academic Publishing – Quartz.” N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Oct. 2015.

http://qz.com/441305/five-for-profit-companies-control-more-than-50-of-academic-publishing/

[4] “The Obscene Profits of Commercial Scholarly Publishers | Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week.” N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Oct. 2015. http://svpow.com/2012/01/13/the-obscene-profits-of-commercial-scholarly-publishers/

[5] “Academic Publishers Make Murdoch Look like a Socialist.” The Guardian 29 Aug. 2011. The Guardian. Web. 22 Oct. 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/aug/29/academic-publishers-murdoch-socialist

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  1. Hi Jadwiga, your critical response was very thought provoking! I also enjoyed your “twessay” ,I like how you viewed OA as a box,promoting accessible information!