7/17/2008

Are offprints obsolete?

In my department mailbox, I just found a big package, shipped over from Germany, containing 50 copies of a recent article of mine. This struck me as a waste of paper and postage, especially given the unbelievable subscription prices for some for-profit academic journals. I reckon that cutting out offprint services wouldn't save that much money, but lowering the prices even a little might increase access somewhat for institutions that are smaller or in developing countries.

And I personally have never sent anyone a preprint, and never received one. Every paper I've exchanged long-distance has been via email.

Perhaps things are different in other academic fields, but given my limited experience, offprints seem pretty obsolete. (That said, I do like receiving a physical paper copy of the journal issue where my article appears, but I think this is primarily because it somehow feeds my pridefulness and vanity.)

Are there reasons in favor of continuing the status quo offprint practices? If so, I'd like to hear them.

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