In the electronic age, the academic's need for commercial publishers is becoming obsolete.
For academics, the ongoing debate about the impact of the internet on scholarly communication couldn't be more important.
This is because whatever evolves or is decided on will critically affect the way academics do business: how they use and create knowledge and obtain reward for being recognised by their peers.
To arrive at the best model for scholarly communication we must look past the enthusiastic championing of an open-access future, and publishing houses trumpeting new and viable business models, and return to first principles. Ignoring how we've always done it and why, we need to ask: what is it that academics need from and are trying to achieve with scholarly journal publication?
The answer is threefold. Academics want their own journal articles published quickly and disseminated widely, and to be credited in ways that enable them to maintain their job or even climb the ladder. They also need convenient access to the most up-to-date journal publications in their discipline's archives: access that has been curtailed in recent years because of the profiteering of large academic publishers determined to exploit their control over research findings, and the inability of most university library budgets to keep up.
The truth is that academics and universities hold most of the cards in the scholarly publishing game. This is not just because they do the research, write the papers and do the unpaid work required to provide quality assurance by reviewing the work of their peers. It is also because their primary objective is not to profit from the distribution of their work, but to have it read and cited by others.