New Term: Open Access Prime

Open Access Prime, or OA marked with an inverted comma as in OA’ is a new term defined in Peter Suber‘s recent newsletter as the literature that is OA in every respect expect that it is offline. It is digital, free of charge and allows unrestricted use. Ideally, it is stored on a thumb drive.  “If a service would deliver me an updated, intelligently compiled, multi-GB thumb drive every morning, like a print newspaper, with even 50% of the resources I’m likely to need that day, and if I could afford it, I’d pay for it.  Or if I could make a one-time purchase of a thumb drive with all the literature in my field up to, say, 2010, with or without an update service, and if I could afford it, I’d pay for it,” Peter Suber claims.

Basically, as more literature becomes libre OA, that is, OA that is not only free of charge, and free to use, but also free to re-use, the OA Prime literature will see its rise, as well. So, what are the pluses and minuses of carrying openly available research results in your pocket?


  • OA Prime beats the problem of inadequate connectivity in developing countries
  • OA Prime beats the problem of none connectivity at all: when you are traveling, when there is no wifi connection…
  • OA Prime helps when you do not want connectivity at all – no distractions and no interruptions
  • OA Prime literature is safe from budget crises, defunding campaigns, interruptions of service or censorship from the government
  • OA Prime allows anonymous inquiry
  • OA Prime can be targeted at underground audience – without major media and authorities interfering
  • The cost of shifting from OA to OA Prime will always be small compared to the cost of OA itself
  • OA Prime literature can be certified free of viruses and malware and digital rights management (DRM)
  • According to a research made by Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, USB syllabus can stimulate medical residents to read more primary literature
  • Finally, text and data mining is faster on OA Prime files than OA files


  • OA Prime corpus isn’t as current as the OA corpus
  • OA Prime won’t allow for dynamic work like wikis and blogs and RSS feeds do, and there are no comment sections
  • With many different thumb drives, you will have to do separate searches to find what you already have
  • Benefits of automation are of no use
  • Collaboration is limited to people who share your offline collection
  • OA Prime resources can be mashed up only if they are pulled together on the same physical device or machine
  • Content that is OA Prime for people possessing copies may carry a price for everyone else, or by chance just for an unlucky subset
  • what we call downloads will be mere “reads” and usage metrics will become obsolete
  • OA Prime literature is unsafe from plagiarism
  • Finally, you might loose your thumb drive

In more details, and in reverse order, with disadvantages first, and advantages last, this is how Peter Suber introduces the OA Prime issue. All these minuses were basically what drew us to digitization and why we started advocating open access at all, which called for a sentence that needed to address what I was mainly thinking about while reading the article: “Because we can have OA Prime essentially at will, once we have OA, we needn’t weigh up their strengths and weaknesses as if we had to choose just one form of free access.” We can easily have both, and use the advantages of both when needed and depending on what kind of work we need to do. Suber continues: “OA Prime isn’t for everyone.  On the contrary, for most people most of the time, OA will be far more useful.  But when we need OA Prime, it won’t take much more effort than we’ve already given to OA, and we won’t have to choose between them until we have an end use in mind.” The confusing part for me is, do we have to choose even then? And my question is, are those minuses disadvantageous at all, since there will be, in nearly all cases, an accompanying online version to each OA Prime scholarly treasure kept in our pocket.

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