Checking up with Peter Suber, it looks like the AAA is at it again. They’ve just announced plans to make AnthroSource (the digitial repository of their publications) free for the following groups:

  1. Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)
  2. Tribal Colleges
  3. Qualifying institutions from less developed countries

Everyone else still has to pay. I suppose that more access is better than completely restricted access, so maybe this move is something of a good development. I guess in theory, they see themselves charging wealthy institutions to underwrite costs and support access for groups less able to pay.

However, it does seem somewhat paternalistic. Does this imply dependency and even subordination? I’ll leave that kind of discussion to the more theoretically sophisticated. Nevertheless, the AAA position here seems to take on the wrong sort of tone. As I see it, one goal of the OA movement is to make participation (not just reading but contributing) to scholarship more open and inclusive. True Open Access is a more effective equalizer, since access permissions are general. True OA means you don’t have to beg some gatekeeper that you’re worthy to read their material.

Speaking of gatekeepers- enforcing these kinds of rules seems rather expensive. I’d love to see a balance sheet about how much it costs AnthroSource to administer its subscription barrier system. Wouldn’t it just be easier to make the whole thing OA? Do away with managing accounts altogether? Shouldn’t anthropologists be more concerned with getting people to READ and CONTRIBUTE to their work than with paternalistic rationing of anthropology to those deemed wealthy or worthy enough to read it?