Re: Free Access vs. Open Access

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Thu, 28 Aug 2003 02:55:08 +0100 (BST)

On Wed, 27 Aug 2003, Christopher Warnock wrote:

> Stevan,
> I have read your comments with regard to free access vs. open access
> and I am curious as to your thoughts regarding copyrights and open
> access and how it relates to ebrary, if at all.
> As a matter of interest/ potential discussion, ebrary has created
> , a resource for librarians and any
> other interested parties that allows viewing, copying and printing, but
> not downloading of information. According to your article, this
> constitutes free access and not open access.
> I would appreciate the opportunity to hear your thoughts on what we are
> doing.

Dear Chris,

I don't know a great deal about ebrary, but from what I understand from
the site, it seems like a good solution for books and other digital
materials to which the authors and publishers might wish to provide
licensed or even toll-free online full-text access, with certain

My own focus, however, is 100% on refereed research journal articles, and
for those, the restricted ebrary full-text access, if it were toll-free,
would certainly be an improvement over toll-based access. If those were
the only two choices, I would certainly recommend ebrary. But there is
another choice, and that is unrestricted toll-free online access provided
by institutional eprint archives for their own self-archived research
output (peer-reviewed articles, published in toll-access journals,
as well as their precursors, in the form of pre-refereeing preprints
and dissertations).

I notice that ebrary offers institutional repositories for dissertations
and eprints as one possible application of ebrary. But I wonder why
universities would want to restrict the toll-free access to their research
output in such an arbitrary way -- allowing full-text on-screen reading,
copying and printing, but not "downloading" (I'm not sure what that
means, as the text must be downloaded onto the machine that it is being
read on!), and presumably also denying access to automated full-text
indexers and harvesters such as, and google that can provide
would-be users with still more functionality.

    Harnad, S., Varian, H. & Parks, R. (2000) Academic
    publishing in the online era: What Will Be For-Fee And
    What Will Be For-Free? Culture Machine 2 (Online Journal)

I cannot imagine why an institution that has come to understand the
benefits of maximizing the usage and impact of its refereed research
output by
making its full-text publicly accessible toll-free would want to restrict
the access to it in the above rather arbitrary ways. Such restrictions
would bring no benefit to the institution, and they would continue to
reduce the potential usage and impact of the research, and hence also
reduce the rewards of research impact, in the form or research funding,
productivity, and prestige for the institution. And for no reason at all!

So, to summarize: Ebrary seems fine for non-give-away digital materials,
which have not been created purely so that they should be used as widely
and fully as possible. It is also better than toll-based access. But
it is not the optimal solution for refereed research output, which is
indeed created purely so that it should be used as widely and fully as
possible. For this, OAI-interoperability and full-text downloadability,
indexability and harvestability of the kind provided by open-access
self-archiving software such as seems to provide a far
fuller solution.

Or perhaps ebrary software can be customized so as to switch off the
no-download and no-agent restriction? If so, and if it too generates
OAI-interoperable metadata, then ebrary can be considered as one of the
potential forms of archive-creating software that institutions might
consider using to self-archive their research output (with their choice
of software then boiling down to price and ease of use, among the various
candidate softwares, such as eprints, dspace and ebrary).
See: "EPrints, DSpace or ESpace?"

Regarding copyright: Again, for refereed research journal articles in
particular, I think that is already a settled matter: 55% of refereed
journals already formally support author self-archiving, most of the
rest will agree if asked, and for the few who don't, there is a simple,
legal solution that works just as well:

I hope this answers your question. Do you have any objection to my
posting this reply to the lists on which this thread appeared -- or
would you prefer that I anonymize it?

Best wishes,

Stevan Harnad

    [reply below, and subsequent full reply -- see next posting --
    received. -- SH]

    Date: Wed, 27 Aug 2003
    From: Christopher Warnock

    Thank you for reply, I am working on my reply but I have to step out.
    You should have my reply tomorrow. I would appreciate your holding
    off on posting our exchange until you have had the opportunity to
    incorporate my pending email as there are some misperceptions about
    what ebrary represents. Your comments have been extremely valuable,
    and I appreciate your feedback.

> Sincerely,
> Christopher Warnock
> CEO~ebrary
> 318 Cambridge Avenue
> Palo Alto, Ca 94306
> 408 910-4161
Received on Thu Aug 28 2003 - 02:55:08 BST

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