The changing face of academic publishing was brought home to me in a very sharp way this morning.
One of my students is having his first paper published in an international journal published by one of the major academic publishers. He was a bit taken aback to find that they offered him one free electronic reprint, and the option of paying 200 pounds for 25 paper reprints. (Though this was still an order of magnitude less than he was asked to pay to make the paper “open access”.)
(For almost all my career, journals have offered 25, or 50, or even 100 free reprints of a paper. This is the way information was spread among researchers.)
As it is his first paper, he thought it would be nice (and possibly useful) to have a few reprints, and wondered whether he could afford it. I asked the departmental bosses whether the department might consider putting in a small amount of money to help him. Back came the answer, No, not a penny.
In a way I approve. By paying this money we are just pandering to the publishers’ greed. But still, this was an unusual occasion.
In the end my student decided not to order any reprints, so the issue went away.