Nature Magazine: the battle continues

Latest on my battle with Nature Magazine and their ridiculous restriction on accessing content from 1997 and earlier.

Dear Sir

I have been a subscriber to Nature magazine for a number of years. As a science author in the field of human evolution and prehistory, I make extensive use of your online content – in fact it is my principle reason for subscribing to Nature and indeed to other science journals. I therefore find it somewhat vexing to be presented with a paywall if I try to access content from 1997 or earlier. Your website provides the singularly unhelpful explanation that such content is “not available” to personal subscribers, without a word of justification for this policy.

Since I flatly refuse to pay US$ 32 to download such articles, I am forced to obtain them at the British Library. I work from my home in North London and having to travel to and from St Pancras for these articles is a very annoying waste of my time. US$ 32 is far more than any other periodicals charge, even to non-subscribers (and by the way, the currency used in the UK is sterling, not US dollars).

Nor can I make any headway with your support staff regarding an explanation for a policy that strikes me as petty and frankly iniquitous. After nearly three months of repeated chasing and mounting frustration on my part, the best you have been able to come up with is that it is “a business decision supported by the board”, which you must surely accept is a wholly-inadequate explanation. In fact it is obvious that nobody within your organization either knows or cares what the explanation is. 1997 is the year Nature went online and I understand that the earlier content was only placed online more recently. Probably somebody at the time felt it would be a good idea to restrict access to it and because nobody complained the policy has remained in place, the reasoning behind it (if any) long since forgotten.

How much extra revenue is Nature making from this policy? My guess is, not a penny. Or cent. I don’t know, but my guess is that the vast majority of users of the online content are in academia and are not personal subscribers. The few personal subscribers that do use the online content probably obtain the restricted material from a library, as indeed do I. I cannot imagine any subscriber paying to access the restricted content. So all this restriction is accomplishing is to waste peoples’ time. In fact in my case I am seriously considering not renewing my subscription next month on the basis that if I have to go to the British Library anyway, I might as well read the magazine while I am there.

Charging subscribers for this content should be scrapped with immediate effect.

Yours sincerely,
C.P. Seddon