Why does NBER want your $5?

John Eckstein, a loyal MR reader, writes:

NBER is still charging $5 to download a working paper [for non-academics].  Don’t economists want to get their work out to the broadest audience possible?  Given the number of downloads for most economic working papers it seems like the fee is just enough to discourage the dissemination of information, but not enough to raise significant funds.  The budget is not on the NBER website so I can’t check it myself.

I get these papers free, but that is because GMU pays a fee to NBER.  The real source of money, Alex suggests, is from selling NBER membership to universities (inelastic demanders, just ask Kluwer), and that requires a nominal fee to stop professors from downloading it themselves.  Still, so many other institutions offer free access, and now with the advent of blogging many non-academics want to read NBER papers too.  Cannot the current system be reformed?


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