May 24, 2022

Harvard’s Robert Darnton: “A World Digital Library Is Coming True!”

We wanted to alert you to a new 3500 word essay by Harvard University Librarian, Robert Darnton published online (today) and in print (May 22, 2014 issue) by The New York Review of Books.

Direct to Full Text Essay (3503)

The essay looks at the current state of scholarly publishing, open access, and what DPLA is up to.

Here are Two Passages from the Essay:

In the long run, journals can be sustained only through a transformation of the economic basis of academic publishing. The current system developed as a component of the professionalization of academic disciplines in the nineteenth century. It served the public interest well through most of the twentieth century, but it has become dysfunctional in the age of the Internet. In fields like physics, most research circulates online in prepublication exchanges, and articles are composed with sophisticated programs that produce copy-ready texts. Costs are low enough for access to be free, as illustrated by the success of arXiv, a repository of articles in physics, mathematics, computer science, quantitative biology, quantitative finance, and statistics. (The articles do not undergo full-scale peer review unless, as often happens, they are later published by conventional journals.)


By creating open-access journals, a flipped system directly benefits the public. Anyone can consult the research free of charge online, and libraries are liberated from the spiraling costs of subscriptions. Of course, the publication expenses do not evaporate miraculously, but they are greatly reduced, especially for nonprofit journals, which do not need to satisfy shareholders. The processing fees, which can run to a thousand dollars or more, depending on the complexities of the text and the process of peer review, can be covered in various ways. They are often included in research grants to scientists, and they are increasingly financed by the author’s university or a group of universities.

Direct to Full Text Essay (3503 Words)

See Also: Additional Essays By Robert Darnton Published by The New York Review of Books

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.