Good news if you want non-academics to be able to read academic research (h/t Jonathan Bernstein). The status quo could be worse – right now people like me can go to research university library, figure out what desk to go to for a day of guest access, then e-mail articles to ourselves for later. But it’s hard to think of good reasons not to get rid of these obstacles. I suspect administering restricted access costs more than distributing the electronic articles to everyone interested.
It’s nice to see a move toward open access coming from Harvard University, whose library in the mid-1990s had the most draconian policies for non-affiliated locals that I’ve seen. (If you brought written proof that no public library in the county could get you a given item, they might let you look at it in the building; otherwise, you couldn’t get past the front door, and certainly no browsing. No annual library cards at any price.)