"Just email me and I'll be happy to send you a PDF", say most researchers I know. But I spent 5 years outside the cosy bubble of an institutional library, and there are lots of problems with "just emailing" the author.
1. Some authors just don't send you the PDF. https://twitter.com/saul/status/1266006702060646402?s=20
2. Many people outside academia think the $35 goes to you the researcher, not to the journal, and they're too shy to ask for it for free. Plus they're worried it might be illegal. (Yes! It usually is.)
3. Sometimes you can't get the email address, or the author's changed jobs and it no longer works. https://twitter.com/ManuSaunders/status/1007555058269999105?s=20
4. Sometimes the author has died, but the paper is paywalled (and sometimes it's paywalled for decades). Here's what a non-academic sees when they try to read the late Bob McDowall's paper on Hawaiian fishes ( https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2699.2003.00851.x):
5. If you clicked that link and could read the paper, congratulations! You might have seamless access through your institutional library. Leave that warm bath of privilege for a few years and your views on open access might change (mine sure did).
6. BUT you can make your research freely accessible to the taxpayers who, ahem, paid for it without OA fees. Deposit an author-accepted manuscript (post-print) in your institutional repository, or just self-archive it. @TomSaundersNZ explains: https://tomsaunders.co.nz/how-to-make-your-research-open-access/
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