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JSTOR Register and Read
January 14, 2013 6:51 AM   Subscribe

The digital library JSTOR has announced its new Register & Read program, under which users unaffiliated with an institution can access "approximately 1,200 journals from more than 700 publishers, a subset of the content in JSTOR. This includes content from the first volume and issue published for these journals through a recent year (generally 3-5 years ago)."

The program requires a free JSTOR account. The other hitch is that users may access content by adding to their "shelf" of up to three articles. Articles may be removed from the shelf and replaced after 14 days. Downloadable PDF versions of articles may be available for purchase.
posted by jedicus (58 comments total) 59 users marked this as a favorite

 
Curious timing, but I'm very glad to see this nonetheless. Insta-register.
posted by fightorflight at 6:59 AM on January 14, 2013 [8 favorites]


I wonder if we are crashing their servers. So far, it seems very, very slow. Still, hot damn. Thank you, Aaron Swartz.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:06 AM on January 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


There are considerable privacy concerns over JSTOR's EULA to this "freemium" program. While JSTOR reserves the right to turn over user information to law enforcement and publishers, it also does so for "service providers with whom we have entered into agreements to assist us with our business operations", which could mean Facebook, Google, DoubleClick, or whomever they contract with for whatever "business operations" covers.

blue_beetle's Law applies here, just like everywhere else on the Internet that a company advertises a service for "free".
posted by Doktor Zed at 7:08 AM on January 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


jedicus: "...by adding to their "shelf" of up to three articles."

That must be a very flimsy shelf.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 7:08 AM on January 14, 2013 [10 favorites]


That must be a very flimsy shelf.

It's only a few pixels wide; what do you want?
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:13 AM on January 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


And those are Ikea pixels, too.
posted by 1adam12 at 7:18 AM on January 14, 2013 [12 favorites]


Curious timing, but I'm very glad to see this nonetheless. Insta-register.

Your black helicopter is grounded, this was announced 3 days before he shuffled off his mortal coil.
posted by Damienmce at 7:19 AM on January 14, 2013 [8 favorites]


Your black helicopter is grounded, this was announced 3 days before he shuffled off his mortal coil.

And JSTOR should have had the common f***ing decency to delay it a week. Doing it while the kid's still up on the Drudgereport is cold.
posted by three blind mice at 7:37 AM on January 14, 2013


Aaaaand the first three articles that show in the search after registering read "Review or purchase options not available."

Not surprised, but still disappointed. How hard is it to omit search results that aren't available?
posted by smirkette at 7:37 AM on January 14, 2013


Yeah, I was wondering about that. It seems like they are just releasing a small percentage.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:39 AM on January 14, 2013


Academics share copyrighted journal articles on Twitter to honor Aaron Swartz.
posted by scalefree at 7:41 AM on January 14, 2013 [12 favorites]


And JSTOR should have had the common f***ing decency to delay it a week. Doing it while the kid's still up on the Drudgereport is cold.

You're either saying JSTOR should have known that Swartz was going to commit suicide, or that JSTOR should have cancelled and deferred their (admittedly limited) project to improve public access to journals. Either way, you're not making sense.
posted by zamboni at 7:44 AM on January 14, 2013 [14 favorites]


Being 3-5 years behind on any of the fields I do research on (nutritional biochem, physical anthropology) means that you will have information that is at least outdated if not downright wrong.
posted by melissam at 7:51 AM on January 14, 2013


I wonder if we are crashing their servers. So far, it seems very, very slow.

I wonder whether there's any sort of attack going on against JSTOR; Anonymous took down MIT and the Department of Justice's sites yesterday in memoriam.
posted by limeonaire at 7:58 AM on January 14, 2013


It's okay I suppose, but on the whole this is a very technical and limited definition of 'access.'
posted by carter at 8:00 AM on January 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


my bad.
posted by Damienmce at 8:00 AM on January 14, 2013


Aaaaand the first three articles that show in the search after registering read "Review or purchase options not available."

Not surprised, but still disappointed. How hard is it to omit search results that aren't available?
posted by smirkette at 7:37 AM on January 14


This seems to be a budding trend. A few research platforms (usually those from a single publisher) are making it difficult to limit to just purchased content. The publishers want users to see content that they can't access to either A) get them to pay-per-view individual articles or B) ask their library to subscribe to the journals.

It takes a some workaround for libraries to offer C) request via interlibrary-loan, but sometimes it can work.
posted by Boxenmacher at 8:05 AM on January 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Fuck JSTOR.
posted by w0mbat at 8:14 AM on January 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not surprised, but still disappointed. How hard is it to omit search results that aren't available?

I asked just this question to the software development guy that looked after my company's CMS, which had millions of documents on it. Clients could buy by the slice or whole sections of content or the whole damn lot. Apparently delivering search results just based on what you have access rights to can be much harder than you think with some systems because, if my memory serves me correctly, it means that the db needs to query each user's profile before returning the search results. Which hoses search performance.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:15 AM on January 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Christ, what assholes. Ⓒ 2013 JSTOR. All Rights Reserved.
posted by phaedon at 8:18 AM on January 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


three blind mice: "And JSTOR should have had the common f***ing decency to delay it a week."
JSTOR did not press charges against Aaron Swartz. Direct your ire at MIT.
posted by brokkr at 8:21 AM on January 14, 2013 [9 favorites]


You'd think maybe they'd change the price of the the 'free' articles to $0, and then have a filter to return only those results. Or maybe a separate 'free' search page. It is database work, but that's what they do.
posted by carter at 8:23 AM on January 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've yet to give it a go, but this sounds like the kind of thing that will work for me. I understand that in some fields this access is still pretty weak though. I hope it at least shows that there is a huge number of people who want to read academic-level articles, but are just everyday folk without any kind of affiliation.
posted by Jehan at 8:26 AM on January 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Apparently delivering search results just based on what you have access rights to can be much harder than you think with some systems because, if my memory serves me correctly, it means that the db needs to query each user's profile before returning the search results. Which hoses search performance.

If you never designed the system with that in mind in the first place, maybe. If you're building a database where differentiated access is even remotely a possibility, taking that into account is trivial. The database has to query each user's profile? Whoop de freakin' do. Getting it done at a basic level is something I'd throw to my intern, if I had one, and getting it done on a larger scale should still be pretty easy for anyone who does that kind of database work for a living. By way of qualifications: I work with a database-centric app for a living and we regularly alter results based on user profile properties. I don't even consider it an interesting problem.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:27 AM on January 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


carter: "It's okay I suppose, but on the whole this is a very technical and limited definition of 'access.'"

3 articles every 14 days is a whole lot more than 0.

This isn't going to be of much use to a researcher, but it's pretty darn handy for anybody who wants to read the occasional journal article or two.

Let's not let the good be the enemy of the perfect. The academic publishing system is hopelessly broken, and this appears to be one of the more significant steps in the right direction in recent memory.
posted by schmod at 8:33 AM on January 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


Apparently delivering search results just based on what you have access rights to can be much harder than you think with some systems because, if my memory serves me correctly, it means that the db needs to query each user's profile before returning the search results. Which hoses search performance

Geez, what CMS are they using - this is a 10-year-old argument...

Why? Let's take the corporate domain - if you go to your internal CMS/portal and search for items, sometimes even the simple knowledge of a documents' title can be enough to accidentally disclose sensitive data. For example, if I am worried that my company is in dire straights, I will start using terms like "layoff" or "downsize" - and then, if something is returned in the results, regardless of whether or not I can actually click-through and access the document, I have inferred the information I needed to know anyways...

So... any decent CMS, MUST be able to filter results based on security and user profiles.

However, in this case... This is not the same scenario... What this interface needs to do, is display all possible results - but make sure the ones that are non-free are highlighted/marked in a different way.

Because, if this is related to your job and your employer's success, it would be completely stupid not to have a budget to pay for these articles when necessary. My real question, is how does JSTOR handle students?
posted by jkaczor at 8:37 AM on January 14, 2013


Looking through their list of journals, all the names I recognized are journals that already make extraordinary efforts to make what they publish available while keeping their doors open, like the Journal of Parasitology, or PNAS that is already free, or the Proceedings of The Royal Society Biological Science that is also already mostly free, and a bunch of non-profit society papers that are healthy enough to take the hit. This is JSTOR doing what it does best, facilitating what is already possible.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:37 AM on January 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Fuck JSTOR."

"And JSTOR should have had the common f***ing decency to delay it a week. Doing it while the kid's still up on the Drudgereport is cold."

Jesus fucking Christ, JSTOR here is doing its damnest to fight for everything Swartz at least thought he believed in when he broke their servers to steal a bunch of shit, which is more or less what its always done. JSTOR is not evil, they arn't fucking up the academic publishing industry, what they do is essentially just make it run just smoothly and efficiently enough that to the uninformed observer it looks tantalizingly close to something that honestly could be the free for all Swartz was trying to make. If you really want a villain try Elsevier and their ilk, but even then they arn't really the problem that is bankrupting libraries and keeping you from reading the science you pay for through taxes, they've just wiggled their way into owning much of it. There is a reason they've managed to insert themselves,

Large high powered journals cost a lot of money and need a lot of volunteer time to operate, they pay their editors, they pay for printing, they pay for copy editing, they pay for staff who assist the editors, they pay for staff who manage the peer review, they pay for the billing that they or their parent organization handles, they need peer reviewers, they need volunteer associate editors, and the non-profit ones usually also use any profit they make to pay for the more specific and less high powered journals that are built to lose money. Smaller more niche journals don't have the same kind of expenses, all of their editors are generally volunteers who are successful enough to have a name but not so successful that being an editor doesn't impact their CV, they generally have printing costs but small scale printing isn't as outrageous as it used to be, and they generally don't pay their reviewers or authors. However, someone still needs to copy edit the amazing ESL work that comes in for proper English, there is so much that is so close to good English you can't really turn it away and not quite good enough to print it. Someone still needs to manage the peer-review process, which can get complicated and often messy fast. Someone still needs to go through the modern equivalent to the process of typesetting the pages, which is not what it used to be but nothing like trivial. Someone also needs to manage the website, deal with spam, handle administrative things like paying for stuff, arrange for advertising from corporations, and the million other little things that need doing. The kinds of editor's in chief who will lend credibility to a journal already have profoundly busy lives, hell, in order to attract them a small journal generally needs to provide paid administrative assistance to help them deal with the purely editorial stuff they need to do. Good luck getting a volunteer editorial board to do this kind of shit either. Professional staff is absolutely necessary, and hiring professionals is and should be expensive. All of this requires complex, and often really fragile, systems to generate the income as well as the free but profoundly specialized labor necessary to keep it all running. Elsevier and the like generally acquire journals by swooping in when an old editor in chief who did way too much for too long dies, or an asshole gets the wrong position and is not worth dealing with for anybody, or simply that no one in the community is willing to step forward anymore. Elsevier then make it very easy for everyone involved, and reaps massively excessive profits for the genuinely invaluable service they provide.

There are a whole bunch of imperfect solutions to generating the income necessary to keep a healthy journal running that don't involve sucking it out of libraries, but none of them so far are really anywhere near better enough to replace more than a small piece of the industry for complicated reasons. Until someone comes up with a magic solution to the inherent problems with pay to publish journals that the spam folder of my inbox reminds me of at a rate of about 20 times an hour, or there is something else that is honestly better, JSTOR not destroying scientists ability to communicate in a meaningful way by doing what Swartz wanted them to will continue to be a good idea.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:39 AM on January 14, 2013 [39 favorites]


Also, this is pretty much a perfect resource for metafilter and seriously addresses the pipe-dream a lot of us have had of metafilter related institutional subscriptions. I just queried my own archive for these journals and found a big list of cool ones that are old enough and would make for seriously amazing posts. So long as we don't make more than three such posts every two weeks as a community, JSTOR has just opened up a hell of a lot of cool science we can take advantage of.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:50 AM on January 14, 2013 [8 favorites]


Being 3-5 years behind on any of the fields I do research on (nutritional biochem, physical anthropology) means that you will have information that is at least outdated if not downright wrong.

Um, you do realize that JSTOR is a retrospective collection, right? That they were not set up to provide access to current research but to store older material? All of the journals on JSTOR, as far as I know, have a "rolling embargo" of 3-5 years from the current date where the content is not available on JSTOR. So, even with full JSTOR access, if you want to read the most recent articles, you need to get access to the publishers' content. After all, the publishers don't really want people to stop paying them....
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:55 AM on January 14, 2013 [9 favorites]


Good point, schmod. Although personally I think it would be easier for them to implement technically, if they just opened it up. But maybe their hands are also tied a bit by the original publishers.
posted by carter at 9:01 AM on January 14, 2013


"Yeah, I was wondering about that. It seems like they are just releasing a small percentage."

They are releasing precisely the percentage of what they have that the publishers who actually own the content and rely on it have allowed them to.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:01 AM on January 14, 2013


... JSTOR here is doing its damnest to fight for everything Swartz at least thought he believed in when he broke their servers to steal a bunch of shit ...

He didn't break their servers. He went to an MIT library where JSTOR articles could legally be accessed and ran a script to bulk-download articles. Because he kept downloading them after his IP address and MAC address were blocked by JSTOR, they briefly shut down all MIT access to their database.

JSTOR was against Aaron's prosecution, so the anger being directed at it is misplaced.

A few years ago I needed a JSTOR article and went to the closest college's library to access it. I was refused entry and had to pursue written permission from the college. Any initiative on JSTOR's part to offer access to the outside public is a welcome one, though at some point all publicly funded academic research ought to be free for the public to access without restriction.
posted by rcade at 9:02 AM on January 14, 2013 [9 favorites]


They are releasing precisely the percentage of what they have that the publishers who actually own the content and rely on it have allowed them to.

JSTOR has no leverage to negotiate and has no choice but to meekly accept what is given to it in an entirely passive fashion? I don't believe that.
posted by enn at 9:03 AM on January 14, 2013


JSTOR really does honestly have precious little to negotiate with, they don't want to smush the little journals that would just get swept up by the for-profits or die and especially the bigger for-profits really could just stare them down if it came to that. What you are seeing in exactly this post is them leveraging what they do have, especially with many of the larger non-profits even if some of them are awfully conspicuously absent.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:11 AM on January 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


JSTOR really doesn't have a ton of leverage. The vast majority of the users who get access to journals via JSTOR almost certainly have access to the same articles via their own academic libraries (or other venues). If JSTOR tries to play hardball with the likes Elsevier, the publishers can easily take their ball and go home, knowing full well that they will get their money whether or not JSTOR survives.
posted by oddman at 9:19 AM on January 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


or that JSTOR should have cancelled and deferred their (admittedly limited) project to improve public access to journals. Either way, you're not making sense.

The first comment in this thread

"Curious timing, but I'm very glad to see this nonetheless."

This was also the first thought in my head and it did not occur to the people at JSTOR that it might pop into every one's else head too? That the timing is a bit inconvenient. They should have given some sort of nod to the dead guy - delayed it a week, dedicated it to him, something - instead of grabbing his headlines. Right? It's not like JSTOR doesn't factor into this tragedy - right or wrong - but show a little compassion for the family and friends.

Or am I still not getting it?
posted by three blind mice at 9:36 AM on January 14, 2013


three blind mice: They launched it last Wednesday. They'd have to un-launch it or something.
posted by zsazsa at 9:37 AM on January 14, 2013 [8 favorites]


"blue_beetle's Law applies here, just like everywhere else on the Internet that a company advertises a service for "free"."

No, no it does not. JSTOR is not a company and it has no need to generate a profit of any kind, which is what blue_beetle's law is about. This is not a 'freemium service' in any meaningful sense of the words, this is something neat brought to you by the publishers who give a shit and facilitated by JSTOR.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:46 AM on January 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Um, you do realize that JSTOR is a retrospective collection, right? That they were not set up to provide access to current research but to store older material? All of the journals on JSTOR, as far as I know, have a "rolling embargo" of 3-5 years from the current date where the content is not available on JSTOR. So, even with full JSTOR access, if you want to read the most recent articles, you need to get access to the publishers' content. After all, the publishers don't really want people to stop paying them....

For my university access, several journals put their most current articles on JSTOR.
posted by melissam at 9:46 AM on January 14, 2013


The first rock is free folks.
posted by sgt.serenity at 9:47 AM on January 14, 2013


They should have given some sort of nod to the dead guy - delayed it a week, dedicated it to him, something - instead of grabbing his headlines. Right?

JSTOR released a public statement where they made it clear that they would not pursue charges against Aaron Swartz back in July: "As noted previously, our interest was in securing the content. Once this was achieved, we had no interest in this becoming an ongoing legal matter." That JSTOR was the digital platform Swartz decided to download from seems to be incidental; Elsevier and other publishers are the ones at fault for creating a sort the academic publishing oligopoly we all know and hate. JSTOR functions more as a back catalog of academic journals, like the stacks at your local university but digitized.

Also, as numerous comments have mentioned above, they are doing what Swartz would have wanted. By granting public access to thousands of journal articles, they have taken tentative steps towards the free culture movement that Aaron was a major proponent of. If anything, this is a nod to his ideals.
posted by dubusadus at 9:47 AM on January 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


something - instead of grabbing his headlines.

what
posted by OmieWise at 9:48 AM on January 14, 2013


So three blind mice, in addition to using that time machine they must have lying around, you want JSTOR to 'give a nod to the dead guy' by delaying exactly the kind of thing he worked for or splashing his name all over it like that wouldn't be actually tacky? You have a strange sense of compassion.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:52 AM on January 14, 2013


Though it seems ghoulish if you are first hearing about it, this new access program was publicized in advance of Swartz's suicide, as zsazsa notes. Here's the Library Journal write-up from last Wednesday.

As an academic librarian and someone who deals with database access issues all day long, I strongly feel that this new access is something to be celebrated. It's not clear how much this came about directly from Aaron Swartz's efforts--I'm quite sure he played a role but I will also note that JSTOR/Itaka is non-profit--but I support virtually all efforts, including this one, to make information accessible to the public (RECAP, Wikileaks, and other less legal sources included).

JSTOR have never been the villains that Elsevier, Gale Cengage, Wiley, and others are--and I wish the rest of the Internet would realize that.
posted by librarylis at 9:56 AM on January 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


For my university access, several journals put their most current articles on JSTOR.

OK, true, some journals do have very reduced or no embargo, but it's not the standard model for JSTOR, because most publishers still want to maintain the primary revenue stream.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:39 AM on January 14, 2013


A quote that demonstrates in part why Aaron Swartz was motivated to tear down the academic journal wall: "I get paid nothing directly for the most difficult, time-consuming writing I do: peer-reviewed academic articles. In fact a journal that owned the copyright to one of my articles made me pay $400 for permission to reprint my own writing in a book of my essays."
posted by rcade at 10:54 AM on January 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Fuck JSTOR Elsevier.

Fixed that for you.
posted by bonehead at 11:03 AM on January 14, 2013 [1 favorite]



For my university access, several journals put their most current articles on JSTOR.


Your library probably pays more for access to those specific journals, too, in addition to their publishers having first allowed current access.

I'd also like to point out that JStor guarantees access to the back files of journals and that they have a really great Interlibrary Loan policy, in so far as they allow basically everyone to ILL their articles.

Yes, I think it's kind of a bare bones approach. Yes, personal data can be mined from this; I think it's been suggested that they might contact academic libraries to say that they've had X number of articles from Y journal accessed by that library's patrons and so therefore would the library like to add that journal to their access. Yes, we have already had patrons get confused about the difference between it and our online access, which isn't great and we'll have to work around that. Yes, it's sort of weird timing, but they announced it a week ago-- days before the tragic death of Aaron Swartz. It's been in beta since March, I believe.

At the same time, I'm really excited. People around the world can access journal articles for free. With time, hopefully the model will improve-- but for right now, this is an encouraging start.
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:24 AM on January 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've said it before on MetaFilter, and I will say it again: Anyone who needs access to a paywalled journal article, drop me a MeMail. I have institutional access to nearly everything and will be delighted to email it to you.

As said above, JSTOR are fairly decent folks, but fuck Elsevier, fuck Wiley, and fuck everybody else who charges me huge fees to publish my scholarship, accepts my peer-reviews for free, and then makes it essentially impossible for the public to read the literature.
posted by hydropsyche at 11:27 AM on January 14, 2013 [26 favorites]


If anyone is confused about JStor's actual role, I've found this (designed to be funny) chart of the JSTOR Production Workflow to be really useful in teaching my students about their digitization workflow and the parallels to our system.
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:50 AM on January 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


For my university access, several journals put their most current articles on JSTOR.

And have you tried checking if these journals are perhaps the exceptions in the program that made them say 'generally 3-5 years ago' for free public access as well?
posted by jacalata at 2:56 PM on January 14, 2013


The Archive Team has other ideas.
posted by unknowncommand at 4:29 PM on January 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think this is great. It's obviously not perfect, but they're right up to the limit of what they can do without getting hammered by the publishers. Good on 'em for doing what they can. The timing is unfortunate, but there's nothing that can be done about that now.

It's for people who aren't with an institution but are just generally curious about a paper once in a while, who should have access to the work being done with taxpayer money at the very least, even if you don't believe that information wants to be free. I just made an account. Yay!
posted by harriet vane at 6:22 PM on January 14, 2013


I would highly suggest you sign up with your local commuter college and get an e-mail address. (You might not even have to sign up for a course, just get admitted.) You'll want to target a commuter school because they most certainly won't be checking if you're still around or if you have graduated yet.

Enjoy free JSTOR forever, if you so choose. I just logged into JSTOR through my undergraduate institution, even though I have long since shuffled off into the graduate coil. (Shhh! Don't tell them I told you!)
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 10:11 PM on January 14, 2013


What's a commuter college? Incidentally, if you're in Australia check if you have a State Library that offers free access. I know the Victorian one does.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:40 PM on January 14, 2013


You'll want to target a commuter school because they most certainly won't be checking if you're still around or if you have graduated yet.

A commuter school (as opposed to a residential school, Joe in Australia--that is, at a commuter school the majority of students live off campus and probably work at least part time and thus are likely to be older than average students) may be a bit lax on this but they do eventually check. Not to mention, 'JSTOR' is not a monolith so funding will determine which module(s) of JSTOR your local school's library purchases, if any. The idea is great in theory and problematic in execution.

Also, a small number of librarians are working to nominate Aaron Swartz for an award dedicated to those who increase public access to government information (think RECAP, not JSTOR). If you'd like to support that effort, read more at freegovinfo.
posted by librarylis at 12:47 PM on January 15, 2013


at a commuter school the majority of students live off campus and probably work at least part time and thus are likely to be older than average students

Huh. By that definition every major university in Australia is a commuter school, as far as I know. On-campus accommodation is mostly for kids from very religious, predominantly Catholic backgrounds and students from rural areas.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:45 PM on January 15, 2013


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