What’s Wrong with Oxford Scholarship Online?


Oxford Scholarship Online (OSO) is the digital imprint for Oxford University Press, making available electronic versions of OUP books. According to Bob Pasnau (Colorado), they are terrible. His library started an OSO subscription and stopped purchasing hard copies of OUP books, and he has not been very happy.

For a great many purposes, I prefer to read material on screen, and I have accumulated the usual collection of programs and devices to facilitate that sort of thing. So my objection is not that OSO marks a prominent step on the path toward the end of books in academia. The problem is that what OSO offers, in place of OUP books, is, to be blunt, execrable….

OSO gives the reader something like an .html version of the book, one that looks nothing like the book itself, even if in principle it is a word-for-word duplicate. Their fear, presumably, is that if an exact digital version of the book were made available, it would soon become available everywhere for free. The worry is a reasonable one, but unfortunately their solution is to make their product so wretched that no one could possibly have any interest in circulating these OSO editions.

It sounds very frustrating, but Pasnau writes in such an amusing way as he substantiates his charges that it is quite fun to read about. His remarks about the lack of care with typography are spot on, and the part about the endnotes will make you cringe. You can read the whole post at his blog, In Medias Phil.

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