So how about a website at the above address?
The problem is that lots of old math papers aren’t online, and that we cumulatively spend too much time tracking them down, and making our own individual copies of these. Happily, many people now scan them, producing PDFs, once they’ve finally got their hands on a copy. The solution to the problem then, is perhaps a really simple website, giving people a way of sharing these PDFs.
Clearly, it would take a while (and many contributed photocopies) before this became a really useful resource, and its unclear that there’d be sufficient enthusiasm early on. Below, I have some suggestions for an initial implementation, which it seems wouldn’t be much effort to get going.
Version 0 of such a system would just have 2 pages: a form, in which you could enter
- a URL to the PDF of the paper
and a list of all the papers submitted so far.
This itself could conceivably work. But there are lots of ways it could be made much more useful.
First and foremost, many people find it difficult, or don’t know how to, host a file on a webserver, and an alternative to providing a URL should simply be a file upload form, with oldmathpapers.org providing the hosting.
After that, it would be great to collect, and provide, better metadata for each paper. No will want to have to enter the bibliographic data by hand (and remember, this is completely useless if we can’t convince people to voluntarily contribute papers, so it had better be extremely easy). Perhaps the solution is to ask people to enter the mathscinet identifier, which is fairly easy to determine, and also fairly easy for a script to automatically convert into full metadata. It probably wouldn’t hurt to ask people for their email address as they submit papers (no need to display this, but it might help for tracking down problems).
Both people I’ve mentioned this to so far (Ben and Sammy Black, from Eugene), have asked about copyright issues. Clearly, they exist. First of all, with no money involved, there’s not much danger of serious trouble. Secondly, a nasty letter is only going to turn up after the service has become useful — at which point you might just want to publish the letter in the Bulletin, and see what happens. By this stage, we might just have the publishers over the barrel anyway, and the right strategy at this point might be to start picking fights.
For now, though, I’m not that interested in the copyright side of things, although this is being addressed in the comments below. I’d really like to know
- Do you have PDFs of papers which you’d be interested in submitting? (I know I have plenty; 20-30 perhaps).
- What can we do to make this as easy as possible for everyone involved — submitters, searchers, and authors?