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In a room at the UC Santa Barbara Library, Eileen A. Fradenburg Joy and her students prepare for revolution. They wield no weapons, only words. They seek not to overthrow a government, but to disrupt the multibillion-dollar academic publishing industry.Joy leads the Arnhold Punctum Publishing Lab, an internship that teaches nine undergraduates and two graduate students the business and art of publishing — from raw manuscript to distribution — over two quarters. More broadly, Joy advocates for “open access” publishing, the practice of making peer-reviewed scholarly research and literature freely available online to anyone interested in reading it.
Open access is a radical concept in the U.S., where academic publishing is a highly profitable industry — and one that’s increasingly straining the budgets of university libraries. It’s a phenomenon Joy knows well. As director of punctum books, an open-access imprint she founded on April Fool’s Day in 2011, she’s been immersed in the movement to make academic publishing more accessible, affordable and interesting.
“We have the skills, the means and the people to take back the reins of publishing into the hands of the university,” Joy said. “In some ways it’s like an activist movement; we want to get the knowledge generated by public university researchers back into the public domain.”
For Joy, who was an associate professor of English at Southern Illinois University until leaving in 2013 to work full-time as punctum’s director in the U.S. (a co-director is based in the Netherlands), introducing open access-publishing to students made perfect sense. The future of the “content industry” — books, newspapers, magazines, music — is digital, she explained.
“How can we give them the tools to enter into this new world of digital publishing, and how can they have their own impact within it?” Joy said. “And how can they help us solve the current problems that we’ …