In this NY Review of Books essay foretelling a future where A World Digital Library Is Coming True, Robert Darnton starts by voicing familiar laments about the ever increasing cost of scientific journals, the high profits of their publishers and the resulting subscription cancellations by libraries. Then he quickly moves on to short term solutions like the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR) and last year’s “White House directive issued by the Office of Science and Technology Policy…” extolling the fact that when it takes effect it will make “the results of research funded by taxpayers … available to taxpayers.”
But Mr. Darnton is convinced that this isn’t enough. He calls for nothing less than “a transformation of the economic basis of academic publishing.” And fortunately, at least from his perspective, he sees growing evidence of this transformation in things like the open access movement and “experimental enterprises” like Knowledge Unlatched and OpenEditions Books.
However, he is most enthusiastic about the potential of the Digital Public Library of America. He is particularly impressed by the DPLA distributed model with its reliance on “service hubs, or small administrative centers, to promote local collections and aggregate them at the state level.” And while he admits that the content is limited by copyright laws that “keep virtually everything published after 1923 out of the public domain” he holds out the hope that the courts will eventually interpret “fair use” broadly enough so that “a great deal of post-1923 material will be made available for educational purposes.”
Regardless of whether you share Mr. Darnton’s view of the current state of academic publishing, his stance on the issues offers a challenging and thought-provoking perspective. We have barely scratched the surface of all that he brings to the debate in A World Digital Library Is Coming True so do yourself a favor; click on the link and check it out.