#ebooksos: Fighting the Enclosure of the Knowledge Commons | UCU Commons
flavoursofopenscience's bookmarks 2021-04-07
The oligopoly of academic publishers is widely recognised as a growing barrier to an open access knowledge commons in the digital age. The discourse typically focuses on academic journals, whose lucrative business model relies on the free labour of editors, reviewers, and authors, with the resultant product sold back to university libraries at great cost. Many of us within the sector tacitly accept this model, with little choice but to engage with it, and are often only reminded of its ludicrous inequity when we explain it to those not in the know and experience their incredulous response. Even the open access agenda has been co-opted by publishers who offload the loss of profit from paywalls to the authors who must pay an ‘open access fee’, reinforcing inequities for early career scholars, precarious researchers, and those without access to substantial funding sources.
Yet over the course of the pandemic an otherwise little-known iniquity has risen in prominence: the status of the ebook, largely due to the efforts of academic librarians through the #ebooksos campaign.
Librarians play a crucial and often underappreciated role in the free flow of knowledge. This work has become more visible in the last year due to patrons’ lack of access to physical stock. Within both research and learning and teaching this has necessitated a shift to digital resources. Whilst academic texts may be obtained through various unscrupulous means, this has ethical and accessibility implications, and is often not possible for books. Freezes in purchase orders of physical books, and barriers to their circulation, has thus produced a vastly increased demand for ebooks.