[FRIAM] Digital/Virtual Library?

Jochen Fromm fromm at vs.uni-kassel.de
Tue Oct 4 13:54:44 EDT 2005

I think every scientist has made the frustrating and annoying experience of
research papers and other written articles being available only by
subscription. As a scientist, you are on a constant never-ending search for
new material, papers, articles and publications. Most of the "publications"
do not deserve the name at all. Why it is called publication if only a
selected minority can read it? This is a severe problem especially for poor
third-world countries which can not afford to pay the high costs for all the
expensive books and scientific journals. Commercial publishers like the
Nature Publishing Group (NPG) and Elsevier, and commercial societies or
associations like ACM, IEEE and AAAS are a part of the problem. Each of the
major societies IEEE, ACM and AAAS has its own digital or electronic
library, sits on millions of documents, and grants access only to members.
IEEE for example sits on more than 1.1 million private documents. It is very
expensive to become a member in every society and association, and even
university libraries can not afford to buy access to all major journals. The
libraries from Harvard and Cornell University have a bigger budget than many
other university libraries in the US, but Elsevier's prices are too high
even for them, see

Some clever scientists have recognized this problem and use it to boost
their image and reputation: (1) they become an individual member of IEEE,
ACM and AAAS, gain personal access to the libraries and can say they are a
proud member of each society, which will increase their reputation, or (2)
they ignore the publishers and post simply the preprints or the full
versions of their papers on their local websites, which undermines the
position of the journals, but certainly inspires others to read the
articles. Thus these scientists are more cited, and gain in turn a better
image and reputation. A site full of good papers is like a cockaigne
("Schlaraffenland") for a scientist, and is easy to find for Google. Google
has become a standard tool for scientists. The problem is some papers can be
found with Google, although they belong to the class of "restricted"
publications. This makes you think you might find other articles as well,
and you lose a lot of time only for constant Google searches.

I guess even in the best university you will not have access to all
journals. From my university here in Kassel, I have at least electronic
access to the ACM papers and the Complexity Journal. I do not have access to
Science, Nature, IEEE papers and most of the other journals (for example
IJBC, Neural Networks or Neural Computation) in electronic form, although
most of them are available in printed form in the library. Yet the
university library here is scattered over the whole city, closes at 6 pm and
if you copy an article from Nature or Science with color figures on a simple
BW copier, the results are often more than poor. This is annoying.

A free or affordable digital/virtual library would in fact be nice.
Unfortunately, I guess the idea will not work, because there are already too
many different people involved which earn money with the process of selling
publications. With your membership in a society, you pay also for many
bureaucrats, administrative folks and other important persons. That's why I
think public preprint archives like arXiv (http://www.arxiv.org/) and
CiteSeer (http://citeseer.ist.psu.edu/) are a good idea. There are also many
other "open access" movements and initiatives. The PNAS
(http://www.pnas.org/) model is interesting: the current issues is available
only for subscripers, the older issues for the general public. The model of
the NYTimes and news at nature.com (http://www.nature.com/news/) is directly
opposed: the current articles are available for the general public, and the
older articles only for subscripers.


-----Ursprüngliche Nachricht-----
Von: Friam-bounces at redfish.com [mailto:Friam-bounces at redfish.com] Im Auftrag
von Owen Densmore
Gesendet: Freitag, 30. September 2005 23:40
An: The Friday Morning Applied Complexity Friam
Cc: Logan M. Cheek
Betreff: [FRIAM] Digital/Virtual Library?

I'm often frustrated by research papers and other written media being
available only by subscription.  

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