The Book Thief
Access to information is an essential component of research. As with much else in market-driven societies, ability, aptitude, and need are highly uncorrolated with means. And in a world with a Web whose original intent was to facilitate the exchange of scientific research, data, papers, and other communications, commercial and legal barriers are increasingly thrown up against just this.
Though there's a countercurrent. The Open Content world is flourishing, and there are journals and publications (PLOS, PNAS, Arxiv) which make publications available. There's a vast collection of public-domain or otherwise freely-available content through The Internet Archive, Project Gutenberg, and many smaller archives.
But the vast bulk of academic publishing is held hostage by a handful of firms with obscene profit margins -- an obscenity which was revealed in a 1970 landmark legal article by a young Stephen Breyer, now associate justice on the Supreme Court of the United States. I'd share a link to that article, but it too is locked up behind a copyright paywall, 46 years after it was initially published. Irony and $2.50 might get you a cup of coffee.
There's more I'd like to say -- this is just top-of-my-head ranting. Truth is I'm a book thief too, and use Sci-Hub, BookXX, Reddit's /r/scholar, and other tools, as well as the limited, fractured, and annoyingly cumbersome access provided me through a handful of library affiliations -- these systems are bad enough that it's often simply easier to drop a DOI into SciHub to get the content directly.
We've got Big Problems to solve. I'm trying to do what I can to solve, or at least understand, a few of them. There are more people out there in the world who could do likewise.
Let's free our data access.
And let's also address the other side of the coin. To admit, as CUNY's Graduate Center holds, that knowledge is a public good. And that the flipside of free access is common support for those who create data, scientific articles, and relevant journalism -- all fields the so-called free market has proven utterly incapable of satisfying, for well-understood reasons. Information isn't a market good, information is a market requirement. Phil Hunt and Richard M Stallman are among those who've proposed a broad-based tax-support structure for content, which I'd discovered as prior art after having made my own modest proposal. Path dependencies are a bitch, which is to say, getting there from here isn't a clearly-defined route, but we've really got to start attacking this. I'm inclined to include not just nonfiction works, but works of entertainment and culture under this model as well.
Meanwhile, thanks to Alexandra Elbakyan, who wears the honor, Book Thief.