Academic samizdat is the act of publishing one's academic work on one's own website (generally making it freely available) while it also appears in a for-profit publication (functioning like a silo) which often charges an exorbitant rate for individual downloads of the same content.
It's an extension of the subversive Russian concept of samizdat into academe. Vladimir Bukovsky summarized it as follows: "Samizdat: I write it myself, edit it myself, censor it myself, publish it myself, distribute it myself, and spend jail time for it myself."
Typically major publishers in the academic journal space frown on this practice (some forbid it outright contractually) as they feel it cuts into their profits, but generally the (search) structure of the overall system is such that it doesn't have a heavy effect on their overall sales and the practice is tolerated.
By comparison, and primarily for search and discoverability, it's becoming somewhat more common for many academics to also publish their work in progress on preprint servers (like arXiv, bioarxiv, etc.) for comments and reactions prior to their being published by a larger academic publisher. In these cases, it's also common for the article to have already been accepted by a major publisher. While these pre-print servers are usually non-profit organizations which allow authors more access and latitude in editing and changing their content, they still don't provide the freedom and flexibility that publishing on one's own site first does.
Ideally, one should publish on one's own site, and then POSSE to pre-print servers, and then to research journals or other publishing platforms.
- add yourself here (see this for more details)...
Examples in the Wild
There are thousands if not hundreds of thousands of these, but the following will give a flavor of the practice:
- Emily Riehl
I am the author of Categorical Homotopy Theory (self-hosted version), published by Cambridge University Press (US$102.00) in their New Mathematical Monographs series. (This material has been published by Cambridge University Press as Categorical Homotopy Theory by Emily Riehl. This version is free to view and download for personal use only. Not for re-distribution, re-sale or use in derivative works. © Emily Riehl 2014.) I am grateful to them for a special arrangement that also allows me to host a free PDF copy with the preceding disclaimer. More information can be found on the book website.
I am also the author of Category Theory in Context (self-hosted version), published by Dover Publications (POSSE copy) in the Aurora: Modern Math Originals series. Once again, I am very grateful for a special arrangment with the publishers that allows me to host a free PDF copy. More information can be found on the book website.
- Tom Leinster's introductory textbook Basic Category Theory was published by Cambridge University Press in 2014. By arrangement with them, it’s now also free online https://arxiv.org/abs/1612.09375 (free copy on pre-print server). Sadly, he doesn't self-host a copy on his own site but does point out that the arXiv version is freely editable. So, for instance, you can alter it to suit the needs of a course you are teaching or a device you are reading on. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International licence (CC NC-BY-SA 4.0).
- Zeynep Tufekci negotiated with Yale to allow her to self-host a free Creative Commons version of her book Twitter and Tear Gas:
...there will be a free creative commons copy of my book. It will be available as a free PDF download in addition to being sold as a bound book. This is with the hopes that anyone who wants to read it can do so without worrying about the cost. However, this also means that I need to ask that a few people who can afford to do so to please consider purchasing a copy. This is not just so that Yale University Press can do this for more authors, but also because if it is not sold (at least a little bit!) in the initial few weeks, bookstores will not stock it and online algorithms will show it to fewer people. No sales will mean less visibility, and less incentive for publishers to allow other authors creative commons copies.
I negotiated the creative commons copy with my (wonderful!) publisher Yale University Press because I really wanted to do what I could to share my insights as broadly as I could about social movements and the networked public sphere. If I make a penny more from this book because it sells well by some miracle, I will donate every extra penny to groups supporting refugees, and if I ever meet you in person and you purchased a copy of the book in support, please let me know and I’ll buy the coffee or beer. 😀 This isn’t at all about money for me.
Open Access Discovery
- Unpaywall.org has created a browser extension that allows one to read paywalled research papers for free. On a paywall site it presents a green tab allowing one to skip the paywall by utilizing a free and legal database of millions of author-uploaded PDFs. See article about this and related tech at Announcing Unpaywall: unlocking #openaccess versions of paywalled research articles as you browse. (Compare with pirate site Sci-Hub.)