I just came across a book which I thought would be useful for one of the courses I’m teaching at Meiji University: Information Society. It’s a 2009 book called The Information Society and it includes the same kind of approach I’m using, with a historical background and various sociological, technological, economic and other facets explored. It’s a huge book, admittedly, at almost 2,000 pages. You can see the full details at the publisher’s web site. I’m not going to be using it as a book, though, even purchased for my University library, because it costs £675.00 (Amazon UK) $1,325.00 (Amazon US) $1,192 (Routledge List price). What on earth? That’s 25p per page!I think I’ve figured out why, though. Looking through the detailed contents list I found as a PDF online, this is a “fix-up” book edited by Prof Robin Mansell of LSE (no criticism of Prof Mansell is intended here – she has done a great job of collating and editing a good guide to the Information Society and the pricing of the book is in no way under her control, I am sure). The contents comprises 86 contributions by scholars from around the world the majority of which are re-published versions of papers in journals (and a few of which are chapters from collections). For a while now I’ve been involved in the Open Access movement, which aims to provide free (as in beer) access to academic literature. As an interdisciplinary researcher I have regularly found that my University does not have access to the printed or online literature I would like. For someone in a very narrow field, particularly one working within a large lab focussed on this narrow field, it’s relatively easy for them to have access to all of the literature they need – ten or twenty journals perhaps – one per staff member, maybe. However, as my work ranges across computing, sociology, law, psychology, economics, poilitics, history and others, and as I’m in a relatively unusual field (we’re trying to grow the research centre at Meiji University but it’s a slow process and library funding is hard to gain) Meiji has access to only a fraction of the journals I would like to consult. Whenever I find an article I wish to read (or even one I wish to consider reading in detail) I will usually find it available from the publisher’s toll access (as opposed to open access) web site, or from one of the aggregators such as Interscience or Ingenta. They will usually have a price per article of $35 (that seems to be the current rate). One should remember that no author ever sees a penny of this money as in almost all cases the publisher has required a transfer of copyright to the them as a condition of the publication (for which the author receives no financial incentive, only the benefit of publication of their work). Now we see where the $1200 price tag comes from, since for 84 articles at a cost of $35 per article would be $2940. Thus a book (well, OK a four volume series) which would be of great use to people languishes mostly unsold. Major university libraries can perhaps buy a copy if it will be used by multiple people but for the small number of students on my course I don’t think I can justify $1200 for this. So, off I go to try and pull together as much of the book as I can from various sources: Meiji’s existing subscriptions (physical and electronic), open access, and directly sourced off-prints/e-prints.