Friday, January 20, 2006

Jon to Scientific American: You Lose

So this is a story. It's a dumb story, but most stories are, which is why most of us haven't written best-selling memoirs. Yet.

So a friend posted a reference to an article in the latest issue of Scientific American, and that interested me enough that I thought about maybe subscribing. I've thought about that a bunch, but I am a college student and thus lost in the depths of poverty. Or so I keep telling myself. But I look up the subscription rate anyway, and I discover that it's $24.95. And I think, that's reasonable. And then I decide to look up the rate for a digital subscription, since it should be cheaper since it doesn't require acually mailing actual dead trees to my actual apartment.

And a subscription to SciAm online costs $40. 160% of the price of getting the actual thing mailed to your door. And I understand that it gives you access to stuff you wouldn't have otherwise, but that's a bit ridiculous. Especially since it means that in order to be able to both A: have a copy to read in the john and B: be able to tell your friends online about your important john-reading discoveries, you're paying $65 a year. Which seems a bit steep to my college-student pockets.

Maybe I'm just being overly stingy; but for a monthly magazine that is thoroughly classified in my head as falling into the "pop mag" category, that seems a bit ridiculous. I can get Time in the mail every week for $30, which seems to include full access to archives since 1923.

Access to scientific knowledge is a bit of a hot-button issue to me. One of the problems I see in America right now is that Americans don't seem to trust science, in large part because they don't understand it. Part of this is because science is taught at the grade school level about as poorly as it can be a lot of the time. But part of that is also because areas of science are overly insular to a certain degree. I'm a senior in a Neuroscience program, who's taken around 90 credits of science and math to get this far, including four semester of neuroscience classes and two semesters of directed research. And I still need a dictionary in one hand and a textbook in the other to follow half the journal articles I encounter that don't apply specifically to my area of research. Never mind how much it would cost for me to get access to them if I couldn't do so through my school... So when I see a magazine whose very purpose is to translate science into a format for the masses, it weirds me out to see the easy-access option to be priced somewhat prohibitively; or at the very least, prohibitive to those who might benefit most from it, the people who don't already have a grouded science education but might still be interestted in it...

Hrrm. This wasn't intended to turn into a big rant. I think I've just entered mountain/molehill territory, so I'm just going to leave it at this.


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