Balancing Cost and Quality in Open Access: The Indian Philosophy Blog

Amod Lele
Educational Technologist, Information Services & Technology
Lecturer, Philosophy
Visiting Researcher, Center for the Study of Asia
Boston University
Personal Website


Matthew Dasti
Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Bridgewater State University

Abstract: Much has been written about the problems of academic journal publishing for which open access promises a solution. Large publishers’ unsustainable subscription prices, bundling models and prohibitive permissions systems have led to a lack of access, and reduced budgets for monographs and small-publisher purchases. (Suber 2012, 29-34) The problem is particularly acute for the study of classical India, where a significant readership may find it prohibitive to afford even prices that might be considered modest in the West. Open-access resources promise to provide make scholarly work accessible to all. But open-access initiatives are often frustrated by issues of cost (with paid staff) and quality control (without them). Scholars expect scholarly works qua scholarly works to provide a level of quality and expertise above the free-for-all decried in Andrew Keen’s (2007) polemic, but providing the quality level of a peer-reviewed journal requires financial resources (especially for editorial staff), difficult to acquire for resources that by definition charge their readers nothing. Some open-access resources have even resorted to charging their authors, an approach the authors understandably resist (Rowlands et al. 2004, 2). 

The Indian Philosophy Blog (, opened at the beginning of 2014, has attempted a compromise between the imperatives of cost and quality control by pre-selecting and screening its contributors. All contributors are experts; they either have or are in the process of acquiring a PhD in a related field. By moderating the selection of contributors rather than individual posts, the blog’s level of quality is kept relatively high without a large commitment of money or labour; the blog owners collectively spend at most a few hours a week maintaining the blog, and only the nominal cost of a web host. Since posts are not edited or peer-reviewed, the standards of quality control in this kind of resource are lower than for an e-journal with paid staff, but they are nevertheless higher than for open social-media sites. 

As a result, the blog has in a very short time become a central resource for discussion of philosophy in classical India. (Medieval and modern Indian philosophy are also within the blog’s purview, but discussed less frequently overall; the number of entries in the “Modern Indian Philosophy” category is so far smaller than in the entries for the Nyāya/Vaiśeṣika and Mīmāṃsā philosophical systems, which have very few living representatives.) Several rising junior scholars and even senior scholars, who had not been initially invited, asked to become participants. The blog has attracted several scholars not previously involved in open-access initiatives, who have found it a way to attain many of the aims traditionally satisfied by conference attendance: developing professional and personal friendships with distant colleagues in the field; sharing and receiving comments on works in progress; and finding a forum of committed scholars of Indian philosophy to share reflections on the nature and future of their discipline. 

Works cited: 
Keen, Andrew. 2007. The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet is Killing Our Culture. New York: Doubleday. 

Rowlands, Ian; Nicholas, Dave, and Huntingdon, Paul. 2004. Scholarly Communication in the Digital Environment: What Do Authors Want? London: Centre for Information Behaviour and the Evaluation of Research, City University. 

Suber, Peter. 2012. Open Access. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. 

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