If you’re an SSRN user, you got the notice in your Inbox yesterday; if you’re not, follow the links at the top of Leiter’s post here. Read the comments, too. It’s hard to know what to make of this acquisition, but for those not familiar, here’s a quick backgrounder: SSRN.com (“Social Science Research Network”) has, for a very long time, been a repository for freely available research online, particularly in law. Most law faculty post their papers on SSRN, where anybody else may freely download and read them. SSRN also has other categories: I post my papers there, and there’s an entire set of categories for philosophy. When you post a paper on SSRN, it makes you swear that you have the right to do so, and underscores that it does not take copyright in anything. I’m a heavy user of the site, as is every legal academic I know (that’s how I got to it: I read lots of law journal articles). Elsevier has now bought SSRN.
Philosophers tend to use academia.edu, which is unfortunate. You can’t download anything from the site without registering for it, and when you do, it tries to scrape the web and link your papers to your academia.edu site (or at least, it did when I make this mistake several years ago), and then sends you an email asking you to make sure the papers listed are all yours (the overinclusion in my case was comical, as there is somebody in physics whose initials are G Hull). You also get a barrage of emails: somebody just searched for you on google and found your academia.edu page! Click here to know where they were! Good grief. In computer terms, the site is basically trying hard to be sticky (causing people to go there and linger), and so it imitates Facebook, giving you lots of opportunities to curate your image, follow people, be followed, explore homepages, and so on, when all you thought you wanted to do was share your work for anybody who wanted to read it (the 5th comment on the Leiter page linked above goes into more detail). Did I mention that it comes with piles of corporate money?