Ars Technica has a new 12,000-word article “Open access: All human knowledge is there — so why can’t everybody access it?”. For those already versed in open access, it’s only really interesting for the final kicker idea…

“As the price of storage continues to fall, and capacities increase, in the not-too-distant future it will be possible for most people to have a local copy of every academic paper ever written if they wish to.”

Otherwise the article seems a prime example of ‘Wikipedia Envy Syndrome’, an unfortunate trend increasingly common among long-form journalists. In which the reader is forced to work through page after page of potted history on the topic, in the hope that a few interesting insights or connections may eventually be made. Which entails skim-reading that is fairly tedious on a Kindle ereader, and probably similarly annoying when slipping down the pages on a tablet.

To overcome this problem might we not re-invent the sidebar, which is where such background matter really belongs? For instance, one click on the button titled “I Know All This Already, Just Get To The Point” and the umpteen-page history-lesson-for-dummies would be snipped out and shunted to the foot of the article.