Open Access as Utility

 Editor’s note: Throughout Open Access Week (Oct 19-23), the UI Libraries will be sharing the views of our UI colleagues on the topic of open access.

by Peter Likarish, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Computer Science and Bridget Draxler, Ph.d Candidate, Department of English

Nicholas Carr’s “The Big Switch” argues that the internet, and computing in general, will behave increasingly like a utility: providing near universal access at a low-cost that most customers will pay without thinking. We already see the trend to no-/low-cost business models for services such as email, web hosting, data storage and etc.

With regard to Open Access, Google Scholar (and similar services) have fundamentally changed the way academics search for new and related research. The service is free, and indexes not only articles at journals and digital archives that require a subscription, but also the PDF files hosted on individual author’s websites. As with other types of digital media, there is no doubt entrenched interests will oppose Open Access but, as their customers become increasingly accustomed to thinking of online services as a utility, journals and other archives may be hard-pressed to defend the current system of charging huge fees to provide access on an institution-by-institution basis when there is no tangible cost to copying and disseminating digital information.