19 October 2007

Mr. Open Access Made Inaccessible

This is something I've been waiting for: an in-depth interview with Peter Suber, the person who has done more than anyone to drive the open access movement forward. Or as the interview puts it:

Philosopher, jurist, and one-time stand-up comic, Peter Suber is widely viewed as the de factor leader of the open access (OA) movement.

Even better, the interviewer is Richard Poynder, whose praises I have sung on several occasions. Just read the intro to the interview and you'll see what I mean.

Alas, the intro is all that I *can* read. Stuck rather sadly in an earlier and not very successful business model, Richard insists on asking readers of the full interview to make a donation, with $8 the suggested sum. Not unreasonable, given the quality of the interview - at least, I imagine, since I've not read it. But I won't pay it (nor will I cheat and read the interview without paying).

As a fellow freelance journalist, I appreciate Richard needs to make a living, but it's as a struggling freelance journalist (all freelance journalists are struggling by definition, since we never know where tomorrow's commission will come from) that I can't pay out $8 for the pleasure of reading it, much as I'd like to. And I imagine I'm not the only one in this situation (there are doubtless even a few non-journalists who are struggling...)

So here we have the ironic situation that what is probably the best interview with the most important person in open access is not readily accessible. Richard: do change that model, please.


Bill Hooker said...

I read Richard's boilerplate rather differently: you are free to read without paying, in fact you are expected to read before you decide whether to pay: "If after reading it you feel it is well done you might like to consider making a small contribution..." It seems to me that Richard is not expecting those people to pay who cannot afford it, but rather relying on the consciences of those who can to provide him with an additional revenue stream. He can have his cake (extra $) and eat it too (all the benefits of OA, such as increased exposure).

I hope Richard will comment here as to which of us is closer to the mark.

Full disclosure: I've paid Richard for earlier interviews and will happily pay him for this one. I know it has more or less gone the way of the dodo, but I have a soft spot for the micropayment model (and a deep and abiding hatred for PayPal, whose gouging killed it in its infancy in my opinion).

Bill Hooker said...

P.S. with what revenue model do you suggest Richard replace his current one -- and how will that new model give you increased access to his work? As someone who has vague ideas about maybe one day making a living as some kind of writer, I have a personal interest in the question.

Glyn Moody said...

Well, I agree that you're free to read it before you decide to pay, *but* he has already served you notice that if you don't pay, you're flagging up that you don't think it's well done, thus obliging you, morally, to pay him, if you do.

And once you've taken that step, you have his further injunction that any right-minded individual would pay $8, and if you pay less then you either (a) don't think it's *really* worth it, or (b) you think it is worth it, but a such are such a sad sack of a cheapskate that you're not going to give it anyway.

Well, perhaps you can see why I find this kind of model problematic.

As for an alternative, why can't he do what the rest of us do? Sell other wordage to somebody, and blog for love? Or even sell *this* wordage to someone - it's rare that stuff doesn't eventually pop out from behind paywalls, so everyone would get access (eventually).

Unknown said...

This should be an interesting thread !! Is this model not fairly similar to the release of the recent Radiohead album?

I too don't think Richard is expecting many readers to pay to read his excellent interviews. I sense that any funds he gets from these would simply be a bonus to what he does. I agree with Bill in that it would be great to see some input from Richard himself.

Glyn Moody said...

The point about Radiohead is a good one. I suppose the difference, for me, is that there is less moral pressure in that case, and there is no figure suggested (correct me if I'm wrong). Maybe it comes down to the phrasing of Richard's request?