A frank summary report of a recent open access event in the UK…

“The publisher-led proposal [apparently in a very limited trial] to offer walk-in access in UK public libraries to a majority of [their commercial database] journals was also dismissed as ‘lip-service’, an experiment intended to fail in order to show that there was ‘no demand’ for wider access.”

There’s also a question of how that idea would work in practice, if it was ever rolled out to all UK public libraries. Assuming password-controlled home access to the service is not allowed for library members (like it is for accessing NewsUK and other publication databases), then how many PCs in the library would be equipped to offer the service? All of them? Would the public be allowed to save their accessed PDFs to a memory stick or cloud storage, and walk out? If so, how many PDFs on each visit? If only paper print-outs of articles were allowed, at current public library costs of say 6 to 8 pence per sheet, an average long humanities article might carry a printing cost of perhaps £1.60 to £2.50. Would publishers be able to claim a cut of that printing charge, perhaps even inflating the cost in such instances to 10p or 12p per printed sheet in order to boost their cut? I wonder if such apparently ‘free’ access, in the hands of the major paywall publishers, might actually end up costing library users £4 or £5 per article — in terms of users being able to take articles home for close study and contemplation.

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