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Early JSTOR publications now free
September 7, 2011 12:02 PM   Subscribe

We are making journal content on JSTOR published prior to 1923 in the United States and prior to 1870 elsewhere, freely available to the public for reading and downloading. This includes nearly 500,000 articles from more than 200 journals, representing approximately 6% of the total content on JSTOR.
posted by Trurl (84 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

 
Amazing that they have a (very evasive) entry in their FAQ about Swartz.
posted by RogerB at 12:04 PM on September 7, 2011


Prior to 1923? 1870? academic publishing is a hideous scam, and this is day late and a dollar short to say the least.
posted by iotic at 12:06 PM on September 7, 2011 [17 favorites]


Finally, I can catch up on the latest literature in my oh never mind.
posted by oinopaponton at 12:07 PM on September 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


Watch out, Wikipedia, you've got some serious competition in the padding-FPPs category!
posted by griphus at 12:08 PM on September 7, 2011 [9 favorites]


I'm willing to bet that the comments here will only reinforce my prevailing belief that no good deed goes unpunished.
posted by pjdoland at 12:08 PM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


I approve of this action by JSTOR! It is good of them to provide this service to me for nothing.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 12:10 PM on September 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


When I was in college, and used JSTOR regularly, I would have paid for the privilege of making sure nothing published prior to 1923 ever appeared in my results. I studied Medieval History and that stuff was still out of date.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:11 PM on September 7, 2011 [19 favorites]


bulgaroktonos im gonna just copy your post down here but insert "classics" if that's cool by you.
posted by beefetish at 12:12 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow, free access to the science that led to the internal combustion engine. The excitement is palpable.
posted by Malor at 12:14 PM on September 7, 2011 [8 favorites]


This will be a huge help in my research as I attempt to prove the link between miasma and bilious fever.
posted by snofoam at 12:16 PM on September 7, 2011 [42 favorites]


JSTOR may be annoying, but it beats all hell out of the private, for-profit databases, which are riddled with dead links and incorrect citations: Gale Research Group, in particular, I'm looking at you....
posted by jrochest at 12:18 PM on September 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


from the "frequently" asked questions:

Do you have the rights to do this?
We believe that all of the Early Journal Content is out of copyright.


Just go with it, J!
posted by obscurator at 12:20 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, boys and girls, you can now leave behind the Age of Steam for free.
posted by Malor at 12:21 PM on September 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


As a general rule, works published in the U.S. prior to 1923 are in the public domain. So that date's not random.
posted by schoolgirl report at 12:22 PM on September 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


Prior to 1923? 1870? academic publishing is a hideous scam, and this is day late and a dollar short to say the least.

These periods reflect when works enter the public domain. JSTOR provides and archival service; it is not a publisher and can not unilaterally infringe on the copyright of publishers. If you want more, lobby Congress.
posted by anigbrowl at 12:24 PM on September 7, 2011 [17 favorites]


That fucking Project Gutenberg doesn't have a single new release!
posted by Trurl at 12:26 PM on September 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


isn't this basically in response to Greg Maxwell's bittorent dump of +18K JStor articles in protest for the recent indictment of Aaron Schwartz?
posted by liza at 12:26 PM on September 7, 2011 [6 favorites]


Even by my jaded standards, the replies here so far have been breathtakingly ill-considered.

academic publishing is a hideous scam, and this is day late and a dollar short to say the least.

JSTOR is a non profit. They are not scamming anybody. They can only freely distribute what the copyright holders permit, and those dates reflect the JSTOR materials in the public domain.

I would have paid for the privilege of making sure nothing published prior to 1923 ever appeared in my results.

That's why the Advanced Search page has, and has had for as long as I can remember, a "date published" limiter. The results you get from a database are only as good as the question you ask it.

Wow, free access to the science that led to the internal combustion engine. The excitement is palpable.


If you don't think that's exciting, the problem is you. The journal article is the form in which most of our important knowledge as a civilization was communicated for centuries. That is important, and will always be important--this is our history. I'm disappointed in anyone who here can't see that.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 12:27 PM on September 7, 2011 [48 favorites]


I can't say this will ever help me in my personal information needs, or my library patrons' information needs. But OH MY GARRUDA will it help with the trivia contest I participate in every January!
posted by gillyflower at 12:29 PM on September 7, 2011


I would have paid for the privilege of making sure nothing published prior to 1923 ever appeared in my results.

That's why the Advanced Search page has, and has had for as long as I can remember, a "date published" limiter. The results you get from a database are only as good as the question you ask it.


Great, I make a joke and I get back a lecture on proper database habits.

Thanks, mom.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:29 PM on September 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


Lobby Congress? Yeah, when I learn to shoot 100 dollar bills out of my ass. (The method for this is ironically published in a journal dated 1924).

But seriously, 1870! 1870. This is what outrageous copyright laws have driven us to. A world where Ulysses S. Grant is still a groovy swingin' dude.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:30 PM on September 7, 2011 [6 favorites]


This is pretty neat, and I'm thankful for it. There is some interesting stuff from before 1923, even if it's dated.
posted by Jehan at 12:30 PM on September 7, 2011


isn't this basically in response to Greg Maxwell's bittorent dump of +18K JStor articles in protest for the recent indictment of Aaron Schwartz?

They say "kinda, but not really". [last link]
posted by Trurl at 12:32 PM on September 7, 2011


Wow, free access to the science that led to the internal combustion engine. The excitement is palpable.

Yeah, I was a little puzzled when I read this. Most universities of any size have a History of Science department where such documents are not just an obscure side interest for particularly curious mechanics, they are vital for freshman papers. YOU may not care, but the world is full of things that you don't necessarily care about, and they still exist. Making fun of them is kind of a pointless exercise.
posted by gillyflower at 12:34 PM on September 7, 2011 [7 favorites]


Jehan: " There is some interesting stuff from before 1923, even if it's dated."

Especially because it's dated! :)
posted by zarq at 12:36 PM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter: kind of a pointless exercise
posted by Trurl at 12:38 PM on September 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Horace Rumpole: "If you don't think that's exciting, the problem is you. The journal article is the form in which most of our important knowledge as a civilization was communicated for centuries. That is important, and will always be important--this is our history. I'm disappointed in anyone who here can't see that."

So the most important knowledge we have as a civilization is almost entirely locked away, unavailable to the average person, and you're disappointed in me?
posted by danny the boy at 12:38 PM on September 7, 2011 [11 favorites]


Finally, I can catch up on the latest literature in my oh never mind.
Academic articles from before 1923 are really useful as primary sources. This could be pretty great for high school history teachers who would like their students to look at real sources in the wild, rather than compiled in readers.
posted by craichead at 12:42 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


So the most important knowledge we have as a civilization is almost entirely locked away, unavailable to the average person, and you're disappointed in me?

No, if you think this material is important and should be available to everyone, then we are 100% in agreement.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 12:43 PM on September 7, 2011


As much as I enjoy wisecracking, I am also very glad to know about this because old papers like this are fascinating. Also, for things like Caribbean biology, even if something is really out of date scientifically, it can be very useful if you want to compare current ecological conditions to a previous state.
posted by snofoam at 12:47 PM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Scoff all you want, but I just found An Historical Study of the Werewolf in Literature.
posted by orrnyereg at 12:48 PM on September 7, 2011 [7 favorites]


Amusingly, today I got assigned Woodrow Wilson's 1887 article "The Study of Administration."
posted by shothotbot at 12:48 PM on September 7, 2011


Bravo. It's a step in the right direction.
posted by maggieb at 1:03 PM on September 7, 2011


Lobby Congress? Yeah, when I learn to shoot 100 dollar bills out of my ass. (The method for this is ironically published in a journal dated 1924).

Well, don't write letters or get up a petition or join any copyright reform organizations, because that might take actual work. You know, that thing you do if you don't have piles of money sitting around.

So the most important knowledge we have as a civilization is almost entirely locked away, unavailable to the average person, and you're disappointed in me?

No it isn't. It's widely available, in many cases, and often free. That something is the public domain does not speak to its availability, but to its ownership. Public domain works belong to everyone; you or anyone else can freely republish them for profit, take the author's name off and substitute your own, and generally exploit it freely for commercial gain. If all you want to do is read or make copies for personal reference rather than republish or redistribute, you have many more options.

While I am no fan of the current copyright regime, a great many people seem to have confused the fact of being interested by copyright work with the idea that they have an interest in it.
posted by anigbrowl at 1:06 PM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


There are a number of pre-1923 papers in the fields I track (history and literature) that are still standard references, not "just" of historical interest (and for intellectual history, this is gold).

As I said in the other recent thread on academic publishing, JSTOR are the good guys.
posted by GeorgeBickham at 1:09 PM on September 7, 2011


This is great, but on a related note, I said this in a Facebook status update a while back after a particularly frustrating trawl through JSTOR and the MLA Bibliography:
When I rule the world, there will be ONE central goddamned repository of academic journal articles and books, with everything digitized and freely accessible online. No more of this "Oh, you logged in via Athens, but your institution doesn't subscribe to this journal so you wasted your time and HERP DERP YOU CANNOT HAS, LOL" bullshit.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 1:15 PM on September 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


JSTOR is a non profit. They are not scamming anybody

Non profit does not necessarily mean scam free. Hell, it doesn't even necessarily mean non profit.

(Not talking about JSTOR, which I pretty much like)
posted by IndigoJones at 1:22 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


When I rule the world, there will be ONE central goddamned repository of academic journal articles and books, with everything digitized and freely accessible online.

Is this where I smugly mention MathSciNet's article-linking feature? Of course, that's only useful if you're on campus or your university set up their off-site access in a sensible way, which mine hasn't.

Doesn't solve the problem of stuff not being scanned, of course. Or the fact I can only check out journals from the library for two weeks when that happens (can't always get things flat enough to photocopy). Or that not everything is on MathSciNet, I suppose. But that's a far rarer problem.
posted by hoyland at 1:29 PM on September 7, 2011


Academic articles from before 1923 are really useful as primary sources. This could be pretty great for high school history teachers who would like their students to look at real sources in the wild, rather than compiled in readers.

Okay, I wasn't denigrating the articles themselves (although 99.99% of them are now obsolete and just about anyone who cares already has access through a university or research library)-- information wants to be free, and it's a good precedent. But this stuff's really only useful as primary source material for intellectual historians and historians of science. If you know any high school students who can understand scholarly articles written in high academic English, I would like to meet them. I'm teaching undergrads and I'd think twice before subjecting them to any pre-1960 academia, which aside from often being just plain wrong is also written in purple prose and is deliberately exclusionary (sources from other languages aren't translated, standard elite education is assumed). There are tons of online primary source databases out there already that have more digestible primary sources (letters, newspaper articles, etc.) from just about every historical period.
posted by oinopaponton at 1:34 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


This short piece by Mark Twain is gold.
posted by zzazazz at 1:36 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Non profit does not necessarily mean scam free. Hell, it doesn't even necessarily mean non profit.

I agree with those general statements, but how exactly has JSTOR scammed anyone?
posted by John Cohen at 1:50 PM on September 7, 2011


Did you read his whole comment?
posted by kmz at 1:54 PM on September 7, 2011


Especially because it's dated! :)

Exactly!

When I was writing a bunch of papers on the treatment of sexually transmitted diseases in the Edwardian era, that was exactly the kind of material I needed. Not only was it pretty hilarious (note: I'm not a blast at parties) but it was also an invaluable snapshot of what people believed about STDs and what should be done.

This is pretty sweet information that is now free-range. The fact that there's comedy gold in them thar hills is just a bonus.
posted by winna at 1:55 PM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


A lot of this content is already freely available on Internet Archive, Google Books and elsewhere. JSTOR may be realizing they have competition, and that making it available to the public is a good business move, because if they don't, someone else will (has), and in the long term whoever has the most traffic wins.
posted by stbalbach at 2:08 PM on September 7, 2011


how exactly has JSTOR scammed anyone?

This talk_page discussion at Wikipedia has some pros and cons for the average home user. Basically, if your not connected to an institution (school, library etc) it's prohibitively expensive, yet the only place to get the information.
posted by stbalbach at 2:15 PM on September 7, 2011


1. Corner the (natural) monopoly on prestige/recognition publication through purely arbitrary network effects. 2. Exploit said monopoly by publishing publicly funded research, disallow access by public. 3. Profit. 4. Release pre-1923 articles, win hearts and minds.
posted by norabarnacl3 at 2:21 PM on September 7, 2011


JSTOR isn't a publisher. Blaming JSTOR is blaming the wrong party. Elsevier and their ilk are the problem.
posted by kmz at 2:30 PM on September 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


In other words, their "scam" is that they charge money for what they're offering?
posted by John Cohen at 2:46 PM on September 7, 2011


And I'm not saying that's a good thing, but the fact that you think the prices are too high isn't really a scam.
posted by John Cohen at 2:47 PM on September 7, 2011


Horace Rumpole: “The journal article is the form in which most of our important knowledge as a civilization was communicated for centuries.”

Seriously? I mean, seriously?
posted by koeselitz at 3:13 PM on September 7, 2011


Basically, if your not connected to an institution (school, library etc) it's prohibitively expensive, yet the only place to get the information.

Up until maybe 20 years ago, if you wanted access to academic journals, you had to have a connection with an institution. Most public (and many private) universities allowed this connection to be as slim as "you must come to the library," although sometimes you had to resister or purchase access. Now, most of those same institutions will give you access to all their electronic resources for the entrance fee of -- coming to the library.

Apart from the case where a person lives nowhere near a public university, I do not get all the hate. Why would you expect free access to this material beyond the general opinion that everything you find online should be free?
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:37 PM on September 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Where are anonymous when you need them ?
posted by sgt.serenity at 3:41 PM on September 7, 2011


Also, states whose citizens really wanted access to databases are capable of working for universal access. Say what you will about Texas, but Texshare offers a pretty nice set of general-interest databases, and RI has some limited general access as well.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:49 PM on September 7, 2011


This is really a great thing. And I'm not knowledgable about the all of the details of JSTOR's finances, but I know there's a cost associated with serving and archiving this content. If anything, I wonder how fair it is to pass that cost on to their subscribers. Seeing as most of those are colleges and universities, I don't imagine they object. To the haters I'd say you don't seem to understand the difference between a mission-driven organization and a profit-driven driven organization. All of my university press's journal content is in JSTOR. And as many of our books as we can legally include will be too when JSTOR's book platform launches next summer. I like working with these people. They care about the same things you do and they're really, really smart. We all really do benefit from their figuring out how to do this.
posted by Toekneesan at 4:05 PM on September 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


A question to someone more knowledgable than me:

Seeing as these articles were published before 1923 and are probably public domain, why weren't they available elsewhere?
posted by wayland at 4:10 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Now, most of those same institutions will give you access to all their electronic resources for the entrance fee of -- coming to the library.

Coming to the library? Physically? Why would I do that? Parking is atrocious and the place is full of smelly homeless people. Anyway, everything you really need is free on the Internet. And if it isn't, it should be. For my convenience. I don't care if it costs a lot of money. All the information in the world wants to be free. IT WANTS TO BE FREE!

/sarcasmfilter
posted by gillyflower at 4:14 PM on September 7, 2011


why weren't they available elsewhere?

It's quite likely that a bunch of these have already been scanned piecemeal by Google Books, but holy shit their cataloguing for pre-20C material and especially for bound volumes of periodical publications is so horrible that it's virtually impossible to find individual pieces by invididual authors (much less on specific topics) reliably. A huge part of the value that JSTOR provides is in the cataloguing and metadata on each article — doing journal archiving well is not just about hosting a pile of PDFs, it's about doing the cataloguing to support useful search and browsing functions, for much of which Google Books is a total nightmare.
posted by RogerB at 4:21 PM on September 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Seriously?

Well, yes. Between the founding of the Journal des Sçavans and Transactions of the Royal Society in 1665, and the creation of arXiv 20 years ago, the peer reviewed article quickly became the dominant medium for researchers to report their findings to one another. Our primary historical record for the path of knowledge accumulation and dissemination for those three centuries is in these journals. I don't feel like that's a particularly contrversial statement.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 4:42 PM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


If anyone wants cheap JSTOR access, see my previous comment here about the Austin Public Library. I haven't joined or asked them for details, so unfortunately I can't tell you more.
posted by marble at 4:46 PM on September 7, 2011


wayland : Seeing as these articles were published before 1923 and are probably public domain, why weren't they available elsewhere?

Because you can't make something you don't have available.

That represents the real tragedy of current copyright law... I have plenty of other issues with it, make no mistake, but the very real risk that works may well vanish completely before they make it to PD status should horrify each and every one of us.

And don't think it takes 70 years, either - Ask any old-school Doctor Who fan (not to mention countless other now-lost BBC works) about "The Purge". No, not an episode name.
posted by pla at 4:46 PM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


> Coming to the library? Physically? Why would I do that? ...

I'm lucky enough to have access to an academic library with a collection going back to the late eighteen hundreds and a very generous policy to non-university affiliated borrowers. Most of us aren't so lucky. Most academic libraries aren't as generous and few collections in North America go back that far. If you don't have access to something like that, and you're interested in academic research, you're pretty much screwed.

... I don't care if it costs a lot of money. All the information in the world wants to be free. IT WANTS TO BE FREE!

Members of the public wanting access to publicly funded research is a bit different from people wanting to get copies of albums and movies without paying for them. Please explain to me how I would be taking bread out of the mouths of scientists by reading their research and destroying their incentive to conduct research.
posted by nangar at 5:09 PM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Most of us aren't so lucky. Most academic libraries aren't as generous and few collections in North America go back that far.

Virtually all public universities will give full or virtually full access to their collections, print and electronic to anyone who walks in the door. Theoretically, the access is for state residents, but I have never known a library to check residency to use the space and collections. Checking books out is a different matter, since that poses significant risk to the collection, and off-site access to electronic material will never happen due to vendor licenses, but a state school should give you access.

Private institutions, of course, can do as they like. Brown and Harvard are pretty closed (or they would be overrun), but MIT, for example, has a fairly open door policy for public use. If you live in even a smallish metropolitan area, you are likely to have easy access to quite a bit. Obviously, if you live in the middle of Wyoming, you will have further to drive, but that is probably why you live in the middle of Wyoming.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:40 PM on September 7, 2011


At work a few years ago I encountered a problem with a fluosilicate. There is not a lot in the open literature that applied to my problem. The paper that turned the key for me was written by John Davy (Humphry's brother). This madman had tasted fluosilicates and suffered for it. The important part of the paper was his stoichiometry and it was right even though at the time of writing there were only vague inklings about such things as the periodic table. Working out what he had done in the early 1800s and finding that was what I had in a vacuum pump line reminded me that although people long ago might not have had the advantages of all kinds of advances, there was nothing wrong with either their powers of observation or their generosity in using their senses, sometimes to the point of foolishness, to establish what they observed.
posted by jet_silver at 5:41 PM on September 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Why would you expect free access to this material beyond the general opinion that everything you find online should be free?

I'm not American, but haven't most Americans paid for a bunch of that research already in the form of their tax dollars? Why shouldn't it be accessible to them? If not for free, then at least at rates they can reasonably be expected to be able to afford.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 5:52 PM on September 7, 2011


I'm not American, but haven't most Americans paid for a bunch of that research already in the form of their tax dollars?

For a lot of physical science and medical research, yes, and there are, increasing numbers of regulations insisting this be so (and some agencies, like the US Geological Survey, have always made their research accessible. But humanities and social science research has not necessarily been supported by the government, so that makes it a little different.

Now, if you throw in access via going to a state university library physically and interlibrary loan (which can end up costing money, depending on the finances of the institution with which you are affiliated), people actually have pretty good access. They don't have immediate access to electronic material from their homes, but that's a different question. It seem to me that people don't mean "I can't get this" as much as they mean "I can't get this in exactly the way that I want," which is kind of a different question.

I mean, lets say that JSTOR didn't exist, and no one had ever scanned and added metadata to those articles. You would still have physical access, if you were willing to make the trip. So why is making the trip such a big deal?
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:10 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


"We are making journal content on JSTOR published prior to 1923 in the United States and prior to 1870 elsewhere, freely available to the public for reading and downloading. This includes nearly 500,000 articles from more than 200 journals"

This just in...

In a press conference today, standing alongside of partners from the MPAA and RIAA, the ABA has accused JSTOR of "copyright terrorism", for giving away copyright protected works that our nations laws haven't retroactively given them the right to protect yet.

"We are concerned that JSTOR is pulling an Assange here," said the ABA's lawyers at the press conference. Those rights are ones that we have been entrusted to defend, at some time future point in time."

In response, Orrin Hatch (R) and Dianne Feinstein (D) are rushing out a bipartisan bill, "The Ronald Reagan Patriotic Copyright Bicentennial Anti-Pedophile Act" to extend and redefine all copyrights, present and prior, to the lifetime of the artist, plus 250 years, while simultaneously defining "fair use" to limited excerpts of copyright protected content of no more than 10 bytes of information.

"In order to stay competitive, it is vital for us to synchronize our copyright policies to be in line with those of any other country in the world that has harsher, most restrictive policies," a spokesman for Mrs. Feinstein said. "It's just common sense, really."

Industry leaders such as Microsoft have applauded the move, and are reportedly in talks to purchase the rights to the U.S. Constitution.
posted by markkraft at 8:25 PM on September 7, 2011


Why would you expect free access to this material beyond the general opinion that everything you find online should be free?
Well, it seems like the purpose of science is to expand human knowledge. Locking it up and charging for it impedes that, especially when the people actually doing the science aren't the ones who are making money, it's just gate keepers coasting due do their 'prestige'. PLoS is able to publish science without charging money.
posted by delmoi at 9:47 PM on September 7, 2011


Okay, I wasn't denigrating the articles themselves (although 99.99% of them are now obsolete and just about anyone who cares already has access through a university or research library)-- information wants to be free, and it's a good precedent. But this stuff's really only useful as primary source material for intellectual historians and historians of science. If you know any high school students who can understand scholarly articles written in high academic English, I would like to meet them. I'm teaching undergrads and I'd think twice before subjecting them to any pre-1960 academia, which aside from often being just plain wrong is also written in purple prose and is deliberately exclusionary (sources from other languages aren't translated, standard elite education is assumed). There are tons of online primary source databases out there already that have more digestible primary sources (letters, newspaper articles, etc.) from just about every historical period.

This makes me really, really sad. I place a higher value on curiosity than this. No, not everyone who would be interested in rummaging through "obsolete" academia has access through a university or research library, given the cost of college, how could anyone assume this?! And I think that everyone, including undergrads, should have the opportunity to read all sorts of sources and evaluate them accordingly. Knowledge is subjective, period.
posted by desuetude at 10:13 PM on September 7, 2011


Copyright law in the UK generally has a 70 year period. So why "1870 elsewhere"?
posted by iotic at 11:26 PM on September 7, 2011


Apart from the case where a person lives nowhere near a public university, I do not get all the hate. Why would you expect free access to this material beyond the general opinion that everything you find online should be free?
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:37 PM on September 7 [2 favorites +] [!]


I dunno, probably because it is in the public domain, a status that indicates that it is supposed to be freely distributed to all and sundry that want it?

More seriously it would be interesting to know just how much it cost JSTOR to host and distribute this material, and thus why previously they had no problem for charging access to it. If providing it for free in the past really would be such a drag on their finances, hell, it's in the public domain, they could just post a couple of external hard drives worth of old articles to Google, or even seed the torrent themselves, and no one could stop them.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 11:27 PM on September 7, 2011


PLoS is able to publish science without charging money.

They don't charge money to read a paper, but they do charge to publish it.

For obvious reasons, this model would not work with the material under discussion.
posted by GeorgeBickham at 12:32 AM on September 8, 2011


We do not believe that just because something is in the public domain, it can always be provided for free.

Uh-huh. Right.


PLoS is able to publish science without charging money.

They don't charge money to read a paper, but they do charge to publish it.

So it's a scam. See also: ArXiv.
posted by erniepan at 1:18 AM on September 8, 2011


PLoS is able to publish science without charging money.

They don't charge money to read a paper, but they do charge to publish it.

So it's a scam. See also: ArXiv.


Hardly. But both cost money to run (here are Arxiv's costs). It's easy to forget that the internet does not come for free regardless of who pays for it.
posted by GeorgeBickham at 1:57 AM on September 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I dunno, probably because it is in the public domain, a status that indicates that it is supposed to be freely distributed to all and sundry that want it?

"Public domain" does not mean "that it is supposed to be freely distributed to all and sundry that want it." Public domain is a copyright status for material that no one can interfere on intellectual property rights with anyone publishing. You are entirely free to publish any public domain work for any kind of profit you like -- a nice edition of Frankenstein, for example. Your price will probably be lower since, of course, anyone else can also publish it (and you paid nothing for the content), but public domain includes no moral imperative to give the material away. Or Dover Books would be completely screwed.

When you (as a consumer) buy public domain material, you are usually paying for the translation or the scanning and hosting or convenience or some other aspect, not so much for the value of the actual text.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:52 AM on September 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Public domain" does not mean "that it is supposed to be freely distributed to all and sundry that want it." Public domain is a copyright status for material that no one can interfere on intellectual property rights with anyone publishing. You are entirely free to publish any public domain work for any kind of profit you like -- a nice edition of Frankenstein, for example. Your price will probably be lower since, of course, anyone else can also publish it (and you paid nothing for the content), but public domain includes no moral imperative to give the material away. Or Dover Books would be completely screwed.

When you (as a consumer) buy public domain material, you are usually paying for the translation or the scanning and hosting or convenience or some other aspect, not so much for the value of the actual text.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:52 AM on September 8 [+] [!]


Yes, I do get all that, and I was probably being a bit glib with my 'freely available to all and sundry' remark - of course hosting and serving data (not too mention the page scanning) does cost a non-trivial amount of money. There are ways to defray that cost though, as there are groups that are more than happy to wear the costs while providing free access for various reasons, and other methods of decentralised distribution that JSTOR can walk away from after a short period of seeding copies. Hell there would have been plenty of people happy to take care of the cost of scanning all the pages in the first place.

I guess that what I was trying to get at was not so much focused at the individual consumer level, but that the broader benefit (for all and sundry) of having these papers available is kind of significant - as posters above have mentioned it's a decent chunk of our shared intellectual history. Given that JSTOR was just sitting on it and charging for access doesn't really wash with me as being something that they should be rewarded for with anything more than a slow, sarcastic clap now that they are providing access, when they could have been far more proactive, and far more ethical about the whole thing.

Yes, the technicalities of intellectual property law are one thing, but I don't see why that precludes discussion of arguably much more desirable situations.

(Also, I quite like saying all and sundry)
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 3:18 AM on September 8, 2011


erniepan : Uh-huh. Right.

If you disagree then by all means, please obtain, digitize, upload, and host - at your expense - every public domain work ever made. Thanks!


They haven't said "we won't do it unless you pay us"; They have said "all that costs money, and we noticed that we can fit this particular portion of the public domain into our existing infrastructure without incurring a significant burden."

I for one will thank them for what they do provide, instead of damning them for what they don't.
posted by pla at 3:30 AM on September 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I guess that what I was trying to get at was not so much focused at the individual consumer level, but that the broader benefit (for all and sundry) of having these papers available is kind of significant - as posters above have mentioned it's a decent chunk of our shared intellectual history. Given that JSTOR was just sitting on it and charging for access doesn't really wash with me as being something that they should be rewarded for with anything more than a slow, sarcastic clap now that they are providing access, when they could have been far more proactive, and far more ethical about the whole thing.

Here's the deal, though. JSTOR was/is sitting on precisely nothing. The situation is not that JSTOR has somehow locked all copies of these resources into a vault and are charging people for access. JSTOR has gone through the trouble of scanning, adding metadata, building a front end, and hosting a set of journals that exist in print in the real world and that you can get access to by going physically to public universities or by using an interlibrary loan service.

What JSTOR is "sitting on" is the convenience of using JSTOR, which, to my mind, seems reasonable to charge for. This is not a case of JSTOR is hording knowledge but a case of people wanting JSTOR to provide an elaborate service for free. Now, the mechanisms of scholarly publication are wildly broken, but that's not what JSTOR is doing. Even Elsevier deserves to be paid something for the benefit their interface provides (which is not trivial, although far below their extortionate prices; that, however, is a different rant.

Yes, the technicalities of intellectual property law are one thing, but I don't see why that precludes discussion of arguably much more desirable situations.

Well, sure. But "public domain is/should mean free" is simply wrong, and it feeds into the dearly held but wrong-headed notion that everything on the internet should be free all the time. And these wrong assumptions underlie a lot of the debate on Open Access and related topics. This material is never going to be free -- someone will always be paying for it, because work and facilities are needed to create and maintain online material, and that has to be paid for at one end or the other.

(Also, I quite like saying all and sundry)

Who doesn't? We should say it more often, along with "nevertheless" and "hereforto."
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:33 AM on September 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


"hereforto."

I apologize to all and sundry. That should have been "heretofore." It is a long thread, and I have been reading and thinking very hard. Nevertheless, I should have done better, and I feel that all my efforts heretofore will be discounted by the discerning readers. Please, do not cast me from your grammatical hearts!
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:02 AM on September 8, 2011


This is nice. Now one of my old AskMes is much more useful to other people since the article linked in the best answer is now publicly available.

I don't know about other people, but in my academic experience, there hasn't been much qualitative difference between old and new scholarship. The approach and attitude is often different, but the old articles are written by scholars just as intelligent as those working today. This is certainly the case in my field, literature, and I imagine that barring radical discoveries (e.g. the Oxyrhynchus papyri) then this also the case in other branches of the humanities.
posted by Kattullus at 6:12 AM on September 8, 2011


[This is a good thing.]
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 6:37 AM on September 8, 2011


Well, yes. Between the founding of the Journal des Sçavans and Transactions of the Royal Society in 1665, and the creation of arXiv 20 years ago, the peer reviewed article quickly became the dominant medium for researchers to report their findings to one another. Our primary historical record for the path of knowledge accumulation and dissemination for those three centuries is in these journals. I don't feel like that's a particularly contrversial statement.

The part that seems controversial to me is not that the journal article was key to transmitting this body of academic knowledge, but that this body of academic knowledge is "most of our important knowledge as a civilization".
posted by Jahaza at 9:29 AM on September 8, 2011


Unfortunately, Katullus, your article was from the English Historical Review so its 1898 publication date keeps it out of reach of the unaffiliated. Happily, it does exist elsewhere.

(And I for one will hencefifth be looking a bit more skeptically at GenjiandProust, whose grammatical acumen I had herethreefour admired)
posted by villanelles at dawn at 10:18 AM on September 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Here's the deal, though. JSTOR was/is sitting on precisely nothing. The situation is not that JSTOR has somehow locked all copies of these resources into a vault and are charging people for access. JSTOR has gone through the trouble of scanning, adding metadata, building a front end, and hosting a set of journals that exist in print in the real world and that you can get access to by going physically to public universities or by using an interlibrary loan service.


Oh, good point actually, not sure why I was assuming they were the only ones capable of scanning these publications. I withdraw my statements heretofore made, and will henceforth and forthwith applaud the actions of JSTOR in this area. Good show chaps, good show.

Of course now the question arises of why google, having been given access to various university libraries from across the world, hasn't gotten around to scanning all and sundry of these older journals? Or anyone else for that matter. Tsk tsk.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 4:21 PM on September 8, 2011


Complete list of available journals (PDF)
posted by Horace Rumpole at 10:42 AM on September 12, 2011


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