Every now and then, I come across a link to a paper on academia.edu that looks interesting. I myself don't have an account on academia.edu, and I don't want one. This means that in order to look at the paper, I have to go through the following process.
- I click "Download (pdf)".
- I get confronted with the message: "You must be logged in to download". I can choose to "connect" with Facebook or Google or create an account manually.
- I choose the third option, since I don't want academia.edu to access my Google profile (and I don't have a Facebook account).
- Now I have to fill in a form asking for "First Name", "Last Name", "Email" and "Password". I enter random expletives in all the fields because I don't want an academia account, I just want to see the bloody paper.
- After submitting that form, I get asked whether I have coauthored a paper in a peer-reviewed journal. I choose "No", fearing that otherwise I'll have to answer more questions about those papers.
- Next I'm asked to upload my papers. I don't want to upload any papers, so I click "Skip this step".
- Next I have to fill in my university affiliation: "University", "URL", "Department", "Position". I enter random expletives.
- Next comes a form where I have to enter my "Research Interests". I enter some expletives. (Turns out my expletives are a popular research interest, shared with 32 others.)
- Next I'm told again to "connect" with Facebook, even though I already chose not to at the start. I click "I don't have a Facebook account".
- Now, finally, I am presented with a link to the paper I wanted to have a look at.
As you can imagine, I rarely go through all that hassle. Usually I look around if I can find the paper somewhere else and give up if I can't.
I'm sure academia.edu offers some nice gimmicks. But if you want your papers to be read, please please please put them somewhere else. Making your own website is increadibly easy these days, and free. Weebly is a popular service -- just to pick one, although I haven't tried it myself. You also have a homepage at your university where you can probably add your papers. If all fails, you can easily create a profile on PhilPapers and upload your papers there.
It's not just about me and other academics who don't have an account on academia.edu. Imagine a miracle happens and someone from outside academia would like to check out your paper: a policy-maker, a teacher, an engineer, an interested person on the Clapham omnibus. Do you think they will set up a profile on academia.edu, which is clearly not even targeted at non-academics? Hardly. They will never make it to your paper.
Or think of the poor computer programs that would like to read your papers. Part of PhilPapers, for example, is a program that regularly scans the homepages of philosophers for new papers. That program (which I wrote) will never see your papers on academia.edu because it doesn't have an academia.edu profile and doesn't know how to set one up.