This morning I got the email I get from time to time with statistics about downloads of my papers, and was surprised to find that the two I had publshed with the Berkeley Electronic Press were not on it. After poking around some, I learned that this is because the BEPress had sold its journals to a company called de Gruyter last fall, which is now charging people to read the articles I wrote for them for free.
Journals usually charge people to read articles. In exchange for the free content, they provide authors with a credential. But, the BEPress was supposed to be different: they reviewed my papers in exchange for my promise to review two other people’s articles. Most importantly, when I agreed to publish with them, the articles were to be freely available on the internet.
Other authors have had to discover similarly indirectly that their papers had been sold for profit ( http://www.digitopoly.org/2012/01/26/berkeley-electronic-press-closes-up-journals/ http://cheaptalk.org/2012/01/26/the-bepress-journals-have-sold-out/ ). So, you read it there first, but this sort of news sometimes doesn’t travel fast.
The profits of publishing companies are big in the news these days; I’m not an expert on the big picture, and I have little to add to that. It does seem that this particular bait-and-switch was executed poorly, however: I can’t seem to actually find my article on the de Gruyter webpage, even logged in as Princeton. There were no search matches for “Spears” or “poverty.”
The thing I might have to add to this debate is the perspective from Sitapur. I have many colleagues and friends who live and work in poor countries, where even folks at the top places sometimes have trouble getting access to published articles. I agreed to publish my article with the BEPress exactly because I thought it would be available to people in places like India. Can I have it back?