Rowly Lorimer begins this chapter by surveying the history of corporate journal publishing as we know it today. It began, Lorimer tells us, shortly after the Second World War by a fellow named Robert Maxwell, whom Lorimer paints as a “scoundrel, thief, probable spy, and publisher” (177). He traces it to the release of the World Wide Web, and the Internet’s gift to scientists of allowing them to share their work online at a much lower cost than publishers charge for journals. Notably, for Lorimer, “The discourse of concern surrounding STM journals shifted from reasonable pricing to the laying of plans by the academic community to redesign and reassert control over its formalized communications system” (180). That is, the issue moved beyond the pragmatic question of how university libraries could ever keep up with mounting subscription costs to a philosophical one of who should dictate the terms of research production and dissemination.
For many, the idea of asserting authority over the means of academic knowledge production is a compelling and exciting venture. As production becomes decentralized via the networked systems we work and play in, more opportunities arise to elide corporate publishers and their for-profit mandates. Academics could (and have) publish an entire journal from their laptops. Lorimer rightly asks what this transition might mean for commercial, for-profit publishers. He concludes that corporate publishers will need to continue developing value-added services that go beyond the scope, skill level, and inclination of more grassroots desktop publishing initiatives. The primary difference between author-run, independent journals and commercial publishers is, of course, money. If corporate publishers continue to reinvest their profit into creative and useful tools and options for academic publishing, they will maintain their position at the helm of knowledge production. (Of course, there are other more and less sinister factors keeping them there as well…)
Lorimer, Rowland. 2014. “Open Access Publishing and Academic Research.” In Dynamic Fair Dealing: Creating Canadian Content Online, edited by Rosemary J. Coombe, Darren Wershler, and Martin Zeilinger. 177-88. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.