Harvard Business Review to universities: your subscription doesn't include classroom use


Coming up next: Harvard Business School Publishing will fine libraries that allow professors to photocopy articles from the hard copy for classroom use.

I’m offering that as a joke, but I probably shouldn’t give them ideas.


Well, gee, they’ve got to keep that ginormous Harvard Business School endowment growing somehow. As someone who has dealt with HBS in various aspects of its work in many fields, I can say – without qualification – that there is no equal anywhere when it comes to shaking down the audience. HBS is the Disneyworld of academia: everything is monetized.

I’ll give them this: they know their intellectual property rights and copyright law down to the smallest detail, and they REALLY put thought and effort into enforcing them.

…Some people on campus will even try to tell you its ethical.


A picture says more than a thousand words.


I’m old enough to remember when periodicals wanted to increase their readership.


It really shouldn’t be a surprise that the business school is the most aggressive about creating new business opportunities. I can just see smartypants kids coming up to the administrators and going "Why doesn’t the school charge for X? Someone here had to work to make it, so they should be paid for it, that’s the first lesson of business school.


From my recent experience, most profs will ignore any directive to comply with this.

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Oh, they already have. Or are you not old enough to recall the crackdown on “course readers” put together by profs and sold through campus copy shops?

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Hubris is the my favorite Shakespearean fatal flaw.

Clearly this is the sort of behavior only seen in an entity which views itself as completely unassailable and indispensable. If they consider the possibility that maybe nobody will read their publication anymore (if that is a possibility) then their policy would likely change. Clearly they think that is impossible or they wouldn’t seek to punish or disincentivize those who recommend their publications to others.

Similar hubris is also in evidence in the intelligence agencies - NSA overreach being the most obvious example. Because they assume the US will always remain in control of the internet and its structures, they assume they can mess with it any way they like at no cost to themselves of the US in general. When that changes, which is happening now, they will be the most shocked.


Presumably because you are old enough to remember when increased readership virtually guaranteed increased revenue.

Nobody paying is just as big a problem as nobody reading.

I’m lucky enough to have missed that particular mess, but I regularly deal with publishers who don’t understand why online access limited to a single user via a name and password that cannot be shared is useless as far as libraries are concerned.


So uhm, since we’re not using HBR in our work, it’ll be cheaper to just cancel subscription since it’s an unused resource. And unused resource is a waste of money.

So uhm, how do HBR make money from us again?


But the Universities ARE paying for online access…

So people at subscribing institutions have access to the articles, legitimately, but aren’t allowed to tell others with similar access to read any particular article there? This means that the institution is signing away its faculty’s free-speech rights in the subscription contract.

And there’s the weird spectacle of one institution of higher education (Harvard) coming out against (other) universities engaging in the practice of education.

The Constitutional right to free speech merely says that the government shall not abridge the right to free speech. Restrictions put in place by private actors are fine.

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What, you don’t have someone whose job it is to just sit there and search through the databases for any person who asks

No it’s not. If you have readers you can find some way to make money. But you can’t make money if no-one reads it at all.

Newspapers have had a difficult time monetizing their free online readership, and I’m not aware of any academic journals who are trying to switch to an ad-based or other non-subscriber model. If every newspaper could have the success of the WSJ’s paywall system then every newspaper would move to that.

I will happily switch from occassionally recommending a HBR article to telling my students about this article instead and what a great example of bad marketing/advertising and douchebaggery it is.