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Martin Paul Eve

Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing at Birkbeck, University of London

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Imagine if you could have, in your pocket, access to the world's research information in an easy-to-navigate, accessible format with dynamic add-ons, customizable aspects and links to other pieces of research. Well, we have a way of doing this. The technologies are called XHTML, HTML5, CSS and JavaScript. The problem is, if academic materials are published in those formats, it is harder for publishers to:

  1. Lock down material with DRM.
  2. Ensure that you can only use the material in the way they want.
  3. Plaster their branding all over it.
  4. Charge multiple times for the same piece of research.

Other unintended consequences include:

  1. Digital exclusion: smart phones are prolific, but not ubiquitous. Even more so for tablets.
  2. Accessibility problems: open formats are the best for accessibility because third parties can develop screen readers etc.
  3. Having your device overloaded with publishers. I don't really look forward to having an icon for every publisher in my apps list.
  4. Format rot. When you get your next device, what's the guarantee that the articles you paid for will be readable?

It's also worth pointing out that the expenditure that publishers are putting into developing these apps will surely be cited as evidence against Open Access ("publishers spend $x0000 per year on developing infrastructures. Nobody else could possibly do that"). You've been warned!

Featured image by haco under a CC-BY-SA license.