Twenty years ago yesterday I posted an academic article onto the Internet. It felt very empowering. After many years of having my articles rejected, generally for pathetic reasons, I got a chance to control my own publications. I am trying to remember how I publicized it, and I think what I did was to send emails to outfits like Yahoo and Google (did they exist back then? I can’t even remember) with the URL of my article and a few search words associated with it. Various people down through the years read it and have contacted me. One was an academic wannabe from Puerto Rico writing in Spanish who asked me for a job. I had none to give out, and in fact I didn’t even have one of my own. Another was from a scholar at an Islamic university in India, and let me say that I am pretty sure that if I had had that article published in an ordinary journal, he never would have seen it. Then there was the big name from Switzerland who sent me a letter telling me how much he loved it. He eventually wrote a review (in German) of my first book, though whether it ever got published, I was never certain.
I am disappointed that Kenyon College, the original venue for my article, at some point decided it was (at 99K) too much bother and told me to find a new home for it. And so it now resides at academia.edu (here, though it may require you to log in), where I occasionally get reports of people in Italy or Argentina reading it. That’s fine. My publishing this article on the Internet never got me a job, but it did get me a continuing stream of readers, which is much more than I would have gotten in past eras if I hadn’t been able to publish in a journal. My thanks to those whose technical knowledge made this kind of change possible.