Book: The Access Principle by John Willinsky

Citation: Willinsky, J. (2006). The Access Principle. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Retrieved from

This 2006 book on the OA movement aims to “inform and inspire a larger debate over the political and moral economy of knowledge that will constitute the future of research” (p. xvi). Each of its thirteen chapters—with one-word titles that make their focus clear—present a combination of historical overview, current state of scholarly publishing, and arguments for OA.

Although the playing field has moved somewhat in the 10 years since the book’s publication, the vast majority of Willinsky’s descriptions are still on point, and his arguments are as cogent as they were in 2006.

The chapter on the economical challenges of scholarly and OA publishing, for example, holds Elsevier’s ScienceDirect platform up as an exemplar of providing increased access to research. After the establishment in 2012 of the “Cost of Knowledge” campaign boycotting Elsevier journals over the company’s business practices, which researchers say restrict circulation and damage scholarly publishing, these remarks are clearly no longer an accurate representation of scholarly consensus.

All the same, Willinsky’s argument at the end of the chapter—that new publishing models must be pursued to counter rising journal prices and restrictive licensing—is just as relevant as it was in 2006, if not even more so.

Perhaps the most interesting parts of Willinsky’s book are the appendices. The first of these, “Ten Flavors of Open Access,” presents ten types of OA with different economic models and examples. These “flavors” include university subsidization of research on author home pages, author fees, partial OA, OA of bibliographic material for indexing purposes, and others. Additional appendices present details on the economics of scholarly associations, journal publishers, and setting up an OA cooperative, as well as statistical information on indexing and OA journals as of 2006.