reason #237 why JSTOR rocks

For almost two decades, JSTOR has been digitizing and hosting core scholarly journals across many disciplines. Currently, their servers store more than 1,400 journals from the first issue to a rolling wall of anywhere from 3-5 years ago (for most titles). Some of these journals date back several centuries.

They have backups, both digital and virtual, and they’re preserving metadata in the most convertible/portable formats possible. I can’t even imagine how many servers it takes to store all of this data. Much less how much it costs to do so.

And yet, in the spirit of “information wants to be free,” they are making the pre-copyright content open and available to anyone who wants it. That’s stuff from before 1923 that was published in the United States, and 1870 for everything else. Sure, it’s not going to be very useful for some researchers who need more current scholarship, but JSTOR hasn’t been about new stuff so much as preserving and making accessible the old stuff.

So, yeah, that’s yet another reason why I think JSTOR rocks. They’re doing what they can with an economic model that is responsible, and making information available to those who can’t afford it or are not affiliated with institutions that can purchase it. Scholarship doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and  innovators and great minds aren’t always found solely in wealthy institutions. This is one step towards bridging the economic divide.

2 thoughts on “reason #237 why JSTOR rocks”

  1. But are these works going to free indefinitely? Go back & re-read the announcement. There’s no assertion that this offer will be ongoing “free”. It appears to be a salvo to the hacking situation but the longevity of “free” is questionable. Secondly, think about it for a second, most libraries have already paid for this content in Arts & Sciences I-IX. Will we now get a refund for what we had previously paid an archive capital cost for this content? Will libraries see a reduction in the ongoing archival window to accommodate what is now “free”? Will libraries get a cost break going forward with Arts & Sciences X for example for the content that will be in public domain? Will this change how you negotiate costs with JSTOR going forward? Should this change how we negotiate costs with JSTOR going forward? Will MARC or RDA records be made free to libraries for this content?

    In the end, how free is free?


  2. You make some good points. I don’t expect a refund, as what we paid went towards the initial costs of digitizing the content. I tried to make that point above, that it isn’t free to create what JSTOR has created. Going forward, I do not expect to or plan to change how I negotiate costs with JSTOR. As far as I’m concerned, this is a public good, and as such, has been partially funded by the public (and private) institutions that use the JSTOR service. We’re not buying anything but access.

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