I have heard rumors about my rare blogging scheme. It looks like I need some kind of external starting point to get myself going. This article again started as a comment on this article and is around a topic that moves me:

I share most of your analyses of the general situation concerning copyright restricted materials, but see some fundamental differences between music and academic texts.

One important point shared by a hacker and academic mindset is the fundamental claim that all information should be free. This is the most effective way to increase knowledge by allowing others to build upon what already exists and the opposite scenario of restricting access to certain information arises the difficult decision upon who draws the line of what’s available to the public and what’s not. Especially when a cultural work, may it be a text, music or recipe, becomes so widely popular that whole generations are influenced by it, we would loose a lot of our freedom of thinking and acting by restricting it to commercial interests. Walt Disney is such an bad example.

I am part of the generation you are writing about. For me PDFs are nearly the only source for my academic reading and I love it this way. I have grown up in the digital age and I am used to reading on screen, organize and backup digital and most of all: share the things I like.
That’s the most essential value added by lossless digital copying which goes hand in hand with the human desire to share (see Marcel Mauss – the gift)!

That content producers want to have money for what they do is a fact I know from experience. I am doing my podcast Talking Anthropology and not getting any money out of it so far, but this doesn’t decrease my motivation and pleasure for this project. At one stage I definitely would like to live from it, just because it should be the aim of every human being to be able to do what we really love. But the internet is new and we are still at the beginning of implementing micro or social payment systems, like flattr for example.

The problem I see at the moment is the fragmentation of the system. In my opinion it would have been the duty of Universities to implement systems were the texts of their scholars are downloadable and discussable. Imagine a distributed repository for all texts of a certain discipline with the space of discussing and peer reviewing them.
If we would have such a system in social science it would be only one further step to implement a payment system, but not for buying access to the texts, instead honoring the authors of the texts one has just read, because we are all so active readers this would be a much more direct and a just form of quality review, filtering and payment.
Right now most of the money one spends for a scientific book is going to the publisher, who in most cases does nothing else for this money then giving his name and printing someone else’s work on dead trees. Are these companies the types of gatekeepers we want to have in this digital 21st century and do we want to rely upon them as our major filter or quality standard?