In an article in the October 2009 Anthropology News, Oona Schmid discusses some of the serious issues surrounding the costs of journal publishing by the American Anthropological Association ("The Price of Free: An Invitation to Engage in the Future of the AAA's Publishing Program," Anthropology News, October 2009, pp. 19-20). If this is really an "invitation" to "engage you as readers" in discussion of this issue, one would think there would be a link to a website for online discussion. Oh well. This lack is symptomatic of the AAA's conservate and unimaginative approach to publications and open access. Two quick observations:
(1) If the AAA wants to distribute intellectual content without going broke, its journals should give up their print versions and move to an electonic-only format. The essence of academic journals is the peer review process. It is nice to have a nice old-fashioned book to hold in our grubby paws, but it is not really necessary to continue a scientific peer-reviewed publishing program. I didn't see anything in Schmid's column to suggest that the AAA might be considering such an option.
(2) One of the most effective ways the AAA could promote widespread distribution of peer-reviewed scholarship would be to set up an institutional repository for professional anthropological articles. This route of "Green Open Access" is the easiest and quickest way to establish open access of peer-reviewed scholarship (see my posts on Open Access, or anything written by Steven Harnad). This is a separate issue from journal finances, but it goes to the heart of the very reason scholars publish scholarly articles at all, and to the heart of the professional responsibilities of the AAA