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Online academic material has costs too

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Published in The Guardian.

The students in the group were smart. They were well dressed and educated, all had laptops, several had expensive smartphones, and yet none of them really expected to pay much, if anything at all, for textbooks or academic materials.

I met the students a few weeks ago as part of a focus group looking at digital textbooks. The topic strayed – as it increasingly does – into a debate surrounding the cost of materials.

“I’ve never paid for anything educational online,” explained one student, “even though the journals want me to pay.”

“Abstracts are all you need,” added another, indicating the trend to skim the publicly available abstracts. “I often find I’m on a lot of US library websites, where they’ve already paid for the journal. Then I’ll go on their site and read it.”

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