Alex McLean, writing for on his blog about the treasure hunt required to find OA copies of his new book, despite a $15,000 subvention to MIT Press:

Although all copies of the book are openly licensed into the creative commons, some are nonetheless paywalled. Indeed, the ebook is has wide digitally distribution to the kindle, apple, google, kobo etc ebook stores where you can buy access to this creative commons license for $25.99. Unfortunately, the digital rights management (DRM) imposed by the store makes it difficult to benefit from the freedom to share and modify the text that the open license grants you. So really, you are paying $25.99 to lose benefits.


Worse, the MIT Press website steers you towards these digitally-rights-managed, $25.99 paywalls and away from the otherwise identical free-to-download ebook that we paid the subvention for. If you click the big ‘ebook’ button, which tantilisingly has no price next to it (screen shot below), you are directed to the Penguin Random House commercial distribution of it:

To track down a free ebook,

you have to instead click on the ‘resources’ tab, and find a link to the epub or mobi ebook download there. Of course, this isn’t a mere resource for the book, but the actual book, so that’s a bit like hiding the free download behind a door that says ‘beware of the leopard’.

The PDF version is on still another page, where it’s divided into 15 separate chapter downloads.

McLean considers this buried-OA a “kind of performance done to placate” funders—a fair read. MIT, which is rightly praised for its fee-free OA initiatives, cites the need to recoup costs and promises some minor fixes to their standard layout. Good. McLean’s point still holds: the full PDF (single download) and ebook versions should be at least as prominent as the paid options.