The Price of On-Screen Reading Interfaces Versus Print Interfaces: Open Access Publishing

Chantal Normand

Throughout my first paper, I discussed how during the last thirty years technological reading interfaces and devices such as computers, tablets, E-books, and desktop publishing have begun to slowly replace printed books, handwritten documents, magazines, and other print interfaces. I argued that there are many pros to on-screen reading including quick access to information, reduced production and distribution costs, and storage efficiency and portability. However, screen interfaces have also been shown to slow reading processes, lower reading comprehension, and remove the “physicality” in reading a tangible book (Ferris 1). Additionally, many people fear that technological reading interfaces will eventually lead to the “death of the printed book” (Sasson 1).

I concluded that the text medium of screen is ultimately an advantage to society regardless of having both pros and cons, and that the death of the book would most likely never occur. This is because throughout history it has been shown that people fear what is unknown or new. Plato stated in Phaedrus that writing in general was very bad, being non-interactive, weakening the mind, obstructing learning, and being incomplete and dangerous when in the wrong hands. Similarly, all of these claims have been said about screen reading interfaces and will probably continue to be said about future reading interfaces. I argued that the death of the book would most likely never occur because paper reading interfaces have proven to be adaptable and evolvable over time, shown with the progression from scrolls and rolls to the modern-day codex.

One of my main arguments in this paper was that online publication and access to online information is virtually free, yet I discovered that this statement can be disproved with a variety of factors. Just because one does not always need to pay upfront to enter a website does not mean that online information is inherently free. Everyone pays for internet access in one way or another. It may be paid for on campus through tuition, or at home through your Wi-Fi bill, but internet access is not always free. Conversely, there can be Wi-Fi available to be accessed at many establishments, but it is unlikely someone will always venture to the nearest Starbucks to write a research paper or to look up one word on an online dictionary. Additionally, these Wi-Fi services are only free to those who access it, not to the establishments that offer it.

Furthermore, there is also the cost of producing electricity in order to run the internet on electronic devices. Information cannot be accessed or published online without electricity, and electricity costs money. Coal mines, hydroelectric damns, solar panels, windmills, and other electricity generating technologies require a colossal amount of money for production costs, operating costs, financing charges, and capital costs. For an example, a transmission expansion project focusing on windmills in Texas was estimated to cost seven billion dollars with all expenses included. This cost was then paid for by electricity consumers in the state of Texas (Yonk 1). Printed books can also require electricity to be printed and distributed, unless they are handwritten and distributed by hand, but handwriting and hand distributing books is extremely uncommon. There are also costs for manufacturing electronic devices used to access online information. Computers, E-books, cellphones, and tablets are certainly not free. Printed books, magazines, and other documents are not free of charge either, yet the cost of electronics is much higher.

All texts, regardless of format, have a cost for labour. There is always someone who will write, revise, and design text no matter the medium on which they appear, and this is yet another reason why not all information accessed online is free. “Open Access” publishing is a model created that aims to remove the costs of accessing scholarly journal articles on the internet. In 2004, Peter Suber defined open access publishing as “digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions” (Rodriguez 604). The author or institution pays the publishing costs in advance (in some instances authors must pay up to $1580, and then the journal article is available to users on the internet “free of charge” (Manista 1045). This concept is extremely controversial because many people argue the model will lead to lower quality research articles, plagiarism, copyright issues, and other legal issues (Salem 491).

“Open Access Publishing”. Image: Darren Chase, Stony Brooke University. Web. 27 February 2017.

In conclusion, screen reading interfaces may contain an array of pros and cons, but the assumption that online information and publishing are always free is false. Internet access, electricity use and production, manufacturing of electronic devices, and the labor of writing and editing all come at a cost. Open access publishing is a solution created to solve this problem, which aimed to remove a portion of these costs from consumers and instead have the authors pay to become published. However, this model also contains many pros and cons, being very controversial in the publishing domain. Open access publishing may widen the audiences of articles, yet it can also lead to lower quality in articles and to legal issues. The future of open access publishing relies on authors themselves, because they make their own decision to publish their articles in open access, or to publish their article in an academic journal.

Works Cited

Ferris, Jabr. “The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper Versus Screens”.  Scientific American (2013): 1-8. Web 27 Feb. 2017.

Manista, Frank C. “Open Don’t Mean Free: A Reflection on the Potential Advantages and  Disadvantages of Open Acess Publishing”. Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication 1.2 (2012). DOI: 10.7710/2162-3309.1049

Rodriguez, Julia E. “Awareness and Attitudes about Open Access Publishing: A Glance at Generational Differences”. The Journal of Academic Librarianship 40.6 (2014): 604-610. DOI: 10.1016/j.acalib.2014.07.013

Salem, Deeb. “Conflict of Interest in Open-Acess Publishing”. The New England Journal of Medicine 369.5 (2013): 491. DOI:10.1056/NEJMc1307577

Sasson, Remez. “The Benefits and Advantages of eBooks”. Success Consciousness (2001). Web 26 Feb. 2017.

Yonk, Ryan M. “Unseen Costs of Electricity Generation”. Pipeline & Gas Journal 243.4 (2016): 53-54.

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