Why do these authors seem to think open access is an all or nothing proposition? The Death of Print and all that? Who says we can’t have both an online journal and a print journal? And why do these authors keep depicting reading a hard copy journal or book as something archaic and atavistic? Take this quote: “They [association members] are fond of the journal’s fine paper, and of the ease with which they can take it out to the back deck to read an article or see who is up to what. And while I, too, appreciate the scholarly pleasures of working with a desk full of well-bound journals…” (p. 67) Was I reading too much into that statement when I found it patronizing? Earlier, Willinsky wanted to show how popular online journals were: “Some 40 percent of those recently surveyed by the university’s library (2003) ranked online journals ahead of books, print journals, and other resources; there was no such level of agreement on the value of any other scholarly resource.” (p.15) That still means 60% prefer hard copy!
There are pros and cons to both print and digital. I just don’t understand why people think that in order to have the new technology we HAVE to give up the old. Classes work just fine with both electronic and print resources. Teachers with a class blog can post links to online sources, even music and film clips, to enhance the educational experience. While I personally prefer hard copy, I know there are advantages to reading a piece online. If the author hyperlinks to source material in the footnotes, or has graphs and data like he talks about in Chapter 11, that’s great. (I do wish he’d done that with his book. Practice what you preach.) He says: “Reading online may yet prove to be a significant extension of the scholarly apparatus, comparable in some ways to the introduction of the scholarly footnote many centuries before, which also encouraged readers to consider the source of the work they were reading.” (p 155). I’ll give him that. There is a definite advantage to reading online, in that we can chase footnotes much more easily. But then, how many of us chase footnotes to begin with? Will reading online make us do that more often?
I feel like I’m being a great big downer the last few weeks but I have a lot of problems with the underlying “technology will save us” mentality in a lot of the readings. Technology won’t save us, but it can help us if we use it properly. Otherwise it’s just more fanciness for fancy’s sake.
While I appreciate that Willinsky did try to put his theory into action by putting his monograph online, I have one problem that hasn’t been addressed recently that bears repeating. A 300 page PDF is extremely difficult to read, purely from a physical standpoint. I did everything I could to make it easier – good light, sitting up straight, good resolution on the laptop, good screen size, all of that. But there is one thing I simply can’t change – my eyesight. I just don’t see well enough to ever be comfortable reading that much online. I just finished reading and I have an eyestrain headache of epic proportions. You may or may not have noticed the changes to my blog. I was no longer able to comfortably read the theme I had originally so I’ve been trying different themes. This problem certainly curtails my ability to access all that’s available online. In this situation, technology won’t save us all, and is causing more problems for me than it solves. I appreciate The Old Scholar’s point about increasing accessibility for people with disabilities. But once again, it’s a matter of remembering that technology is a only a tool. The onus is on us to make it useful.