Elizabeth Nolan Brown // Blog

media. music. feminism. food. city-dwelling. story-telling. and other things.

Just a little late-night musing on the free distribution of ideas …

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Oh, goodness. Agreed, agreed, agreed. What am I agreeing to? Well, mostly just the frustration of arguing with free-culture kids in general. Steven Poole, who once gave away a free PDF version of a book he wrote (while giving people the option to pay, which nobody did), notes:

If the breathless advocates of “the free distribution of ideas” are serious, they need either a) to come up with a realistic proposal as to how I am to keep feeding myself while giving the fruits of my labours away for free; or b) come out and say honestly that they don’t think any such thing as a “professional writer” ought to exist, and that I should just get a job like anyone else.

One of the most intellectually annoying arguments of my life was trying to discuss with a whole batch of earnest Harvard undergraduates the pros and cons of open-access in academic publishing while at a Berkman Center conference last year. I’m no heavyweight when it comes to this stuff, so I can’t say my arguments against it were all that stellar or anything, but I could not for the life of me get them beyond “Open access to information is always good!” And how, then, are the publishers of academic journals supposed to make any money to continue what they’re doing? “Open access to information is always good!” They were all pre-laws who will make infinitely more money then me in my — as Poole points out — ever-diminishing utility as a writer, of course, but whatever. I still think they’re all ravingly delusional.

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Written by Elizabeth

May 28, 2008 at 2:51 am

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