Lately, we've been asked by a disturbing number of people why we don't restrict access to this site. Some institutions have even suggested that money would be more forthcoming if we agreed to do this, or at least to cooperate with their plans for a new e-print system in which the user pays for anything not current.
We don't think it would improve service to be less helpful to the public.
For the last several centuries, the trend in libraries has been to admit more and more people, and to charge them, as individuals, nothing. ``Free to All,'' as it says on the Victorian façade of the public library here in Boston (and of every Carnegie-endowed library in the country). Why change this just when a world library comes within reach?
If older e-prints were to be withdrawn from free circulation upon publication in journals, and access thereafter restricted to paying subscribers, science would be taking a huge step backwards. It is true that large rich universities in wealthy countries might buy site licenses for all their students and faculty---but why should this elite be the only group to benefit from the cheapest publishing system in history?
Free access to literature is not a revolutionary, hare-brained idea. It is the conservative ideology of Marian the Librarian. Support traditional values: keep knowledge free.
Norman Hugh Redington and Karen Ræ Keck, Editors
The Net Advance of Physics
We also urge you to support the Free Software Foundation.