Why and How Scholarly Knowledge Should Be Free for All
416 pp., 6 x 9 in,
- Published: March 28, 2023
- Publisher: The MIT Press
- Published: March 28, 2023
- Publisher: The MIT Press
A clear-eyed examination of the open access movement: past history, current conflicts, and future possibilities.
Open access (OA) could one day put the sum of human knowledge at our fingertips. But the goal of allowing everyone to read everything faces fierce resistance. In Athena Unbound, Peter Baldwin offers an up-to-date look at the ideals and history behind OA, and unpacks the controversies that arise when the dream of limitless information slams into entrenched interests in favor of the status quo. In addition to providing a clear analysis of the debates, Baldwin focuses on thorny issues such as copyright and ways to pay for “free” knowledge. He also provides a roadmap that would make OA economically viable and, as a result, advance one of humanity's age-old ambitions.
Baldwin addresses the arguments in terms of disseminating scientific research, the history of intellectual property and copyright, and the development of the university and research establishment. As he notes, the hard sciences have already created a funding model that increasingly provides open access, but at the cost of crowding out the humanities. Baldwin proposes a new system that would shift costs from consumers to producers and free scholarly knowledge from the paywalls and institutional barriers that keep it from much of the world.
Rich in detail and free of jargon, Athena Unbound is an essential primer on the state of the global open access movement.
“In Athena Unbound, Peter Baldwin offers an admirably pragmatic yet principled approach to the perennial problem of encouraging both the production and distribution of knowledge.”
Paul Romer, Nobel Laureate and University Professor, NYU
“Peter Baldwin's provocative book offers a comprehensive and historically rich account of the complex ecosystem of knowledge creation and dissemination. This book is an elixir that authors, readers, and publishers will relish.”
Pamela Samuelson, Richard M. Sherman Distinguished Professor of Law, Professor of School Information, UC Berkeley; Codirector, Berkeley Center for Law & Technology; Cofounder, Authors Alliance
“By bringing a richly engaging historical perspective to the public right to research, Peter Baldwin weaves, with wit and eloquence, a compelling case for making this right an online reality.”
John Willinsky, author of Copyright's Broken Promise: How to Restore the Law's Ability to Promote the Progress of Science (MIT Press)
"Few people are shaking up the world of scholarly publishing as much as Peter Baldwin. This erudite and historically informed volume is a must-read for those who would know why."
Martin Paul Eve, Birkbeck College, University of London; author of Open Access and the Humanities: Contexts, Controversies, and the Future
“This book provides a masterful scholarly overview of publication trends in the digital age, and a thoughtful analysis of where we may be headed.”
Paul Ginsparg, Professor of Physics and Information Science, Cornell University
For those already well-versed in the open access community, you know that there is an abundance of literature covering the theory, economics, and sociological dimensions of OA. But, it's easy to lose the forest for the trees. Athena Unbound stands out by providing a comprehensive, high-level explanation of how we have reached the current state of open access affairs.
"A historian at UCLA and Global Professor at NYU probes the aim of open access (“a visionary quest whose ultimate ambition is an absolute: All knowledge should be freely available to anyone anywhere”) and the practical and other obstacles that hinder its realization. Important, at a time when institutions are creating ever more intellectual property of immense economic and social value. Practicing what he professes, his book is open access."
"There is a longstanding call to make scholarship free to all, known as the open access movement. Baldwin argues that this time when AI and ChatGPT are reshaping information could be a turning point that speeds up the move to open up scholarship. Baldwin's latest book, Athena Unbound: Why and How Scholarly Knowledge Should Be Free for All, looks at the history and future of the open access movement. And fittingly, his publisher made a version of the book available free online."
"Baldwin (UCLA and NYU) describes the challenges of open access for humanities disciplines and also the possibilities for making scholarship open access. He points to Latin America's success in making the transition to open access through government funding and the SciELO publishing network. He explores what it would take to digitize the public domain and out-of-print books and articles of the world. Baldwin is a professor of history, and his cross-disciplinary knowledge of scholarship in the humanities provides a perspective rarely seen in the literature on open access, a literature often dominated by scholars of the social sciences and so-called hard sciences. He omits insight into the market for scholarly literature that a professional librarian could provide. For example, in his calculations of the amount libraries spend annually on monographs, he uses an NCES “one-time expenditures” figure, which also includes serial back-files and audiovisual purchases, meaning he significantly overestimates the amount academic libraries spend on monographs. However, the book contributes a valuable humanist perspective to the existing understanding of the open-access ecosystem. Baldwin's polished prose marks him as a writer who cares about aesthetics as well as content in composition. Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students, researchers, faculty, professionals."
The open access edition of this book was made possible by generous funding and support from the author