Open access doesn’t mean free

While I agree that information should be available for the public, I do not that open access necessarily should support socialist values. Although the concept of having all resources free to everyone is extremely ideal, precedent cases have proven that these uptopian ideals only work if all members of the society have the same mindset and are always diligent about their work, which is not the case the real life. In realistic settings, therefore, we must pursue the question of how to approach open access bearing in mind that open access should bring advantages not only to those who previously did not have access, but also to those who are offering the information. These benefits do not necessarily have to be financial. Rather, they are more about supporting or upholding certain values, such as keeping the prestigious reputation of Harvard or MIT while offering course material as an open source online. If these benefits are not seen, students and alumni may fear that intangible and tangible values that have been built up for centuries would be threatened over the long term. Although information should be made available and should be put into digital format for the sake of preservation and widespread distribution, I do not think it necessarily has to be free. I believe entities such as Harvard could decide to choose to charge for some of its exclusive material. In this market-driven economy, it is pretty much established that you pay for what you want and people are willing to pay for quality information. That is different from Google’s project in trying to digitize more public-domain material. Regarding digitation of public-domain material, however, it is unfortunate that Google is taking on this project alone. Although its ulterior intention is to make money, I don’t think that all business initiatives are solely based on evil intentions and that it is good that Google is applying its technology for good use to the general public. It is not Google’s fault that it has the technology. One must question, however, if the information is truly accurate, since it is a virtual monopoly, there is little means of cross-examination and self-review. A Google worker could edit sections of journals and the public could never know. Google should therefore adopt very strict ethical standards in taking on this experiment. In Korea, the government is initiating a digital library project and gradually digitalizing all government documents to establish a ubiquitous government network. Fueled on this initiative (and on grants), many schools are also digitalizing their libraries. Such projects need state support to some extent.


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