It comes down to this. I am a taxpayer and a physician. It makes me madder than Hell to have to pay $35.00 to read a single PDF of a journal article when my tax dollars already paid for the research. I have started several scientific companies and I need access to research papers to inform me and my team but since I am not a faculty member of a research institution, I do not have free access to the articles.... except occasionally. And that experience seems to be more common lately. The reason? Peter Suber and others like him who have been pushing Open Access to scholarly publications for some time. And it's gaining traction. You should know about this important movement in opening up scientific knowledge.
I am new to the open access issue even though I have published a number of academic papers. I had some misconceptions about what it was and I was very ignorant of the issues surrounding it. When I did a little research on my own, I found that the major publishers get all their content for free (the articles), and free volunteers to peer review the papers, yet they charge enormous sums of money to the libraries for the subscriptions, and soak the individual who wants to read a few papers.
Peter Suber's book is terrific. It is short and easily readable in a couple of sittings. That said, he is very thorough and clear at explaining what Open Access is, and why it benefits both the author, the research enterprise and society. He takes a step by step look at open access that will take someone new like me through the topic and at the end make me feel like I understand it quite well. It is broad and thorough enough, however, that someone reasonably familiar with the topic will achieve a deeper knowledge of Open Access. And importantly, a reader who understands Open Access will quickly see its advantages over the current closed, Toll Access model of publishing.
Important lessons: the individual author can decide to make his article open access and keep a number of rights to his or her work while doing so, while not losing any impact by the choice of publication. Suber's book tells you how and why. Open Access is not a small fringe movement, it is a growing awareness that has an increasing number of universities and their faculty members supporting open access as a university policy. Virtually all publishers support some form of Open Access without discriminating against the author in deciding to publish the submitted paper. The National Institutes of Health has mandated open access and the vast majority of publishers have acquiesced without penalty to the NIH funded authors who want to publish in top tier journals.
Why Open Access? Well, Suber's book tells us that the economic impact of open access has been demonstrated in the countries where government funded research is made Open Access. In addition, physicians and researchers who want to read about the latest research in their field are not required to pay (dearly) for access to articles, making it more likely that they will keep up with current developments (this is true from personal experience). Patients and families can access articles to become more knowledgeable about a condition or a disease. Plus we've already paid for the research! We should get to read about it.
Open Access is well written, clear and highly informative. It will make you understand why it is critical to advancing knowledge and research and you will quickly become an advocate for Open Access armed now with facts and understanding.