If you are not familiar with the service, JSTOR is a digital archive of “academic journals and other scholarly content.” Although the organization is non-profit, the service is licensed. That’s because much of the content is copyrighted and licensed itself. Plus someone has to pay for disk space, after all.
Over the years I’ve found JSTOR a useful stop when researching a topic (particularly for professional subjects I’m apt to run into at work). Unfortunately, the mode of operation is split due to login access. I could search the archives from anywhere, but had to visit a participating institution (usually the Thomas Balch Library in my case) to access the article. Cumbersome, but I fully understand given the copyright considerations. The main inconvenience is to the consumer of any research I present (i.e. blog post or white paper). With our Web 2.0 culture, many readers expect to see a hyperlink to the sourced information. Yes, the old MLA standard citations are sufficient, but more and more I find the customers want that “click to see it” underscored text.
Good news is JSTOR is now opening the older journals for free access:
On September 6, 2011, we announced that we are making journal content in JSTOR published prior to 1923 in the United States and prior to 1870 elsewhere freely available to anyone, anywhere in the world. This “Early Journal Content” includes discourse and scholarship in the arts and humanities, economics and politics, and in mathematics and other sciences. It includes nearly 500,000 articles from more than 200 journals. This represents 6% of the content on JSTOR.
I’d point out before folks get too carried away, the “prior to” date is in compliance with rules concerning public domain and copyrighted content.
That allows me to drop direct citations to the Memoir of Daniel Treadwell; or an article on the US Regulars during the Civil War written in 1898; or perhaps an analysis of armor plated warships appering in the Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy from 1864; or a history of the Committee on the Conduct of the War written in 1918. Although for my day job, I’m still not able to hyperlink pages from the Journal of Management Information Systems. But I’m sure you readers are at no great loss there!
JSTOR is involved with a prosecution regarding the copyrighted material in the archives. Although some have suggested the move to “free” the older content is a gesture to appease critics, I’d point out that JSTOR is paying for the storage and presentation platform on which the digital resources are accessed. I’ve got no problem if they want to charge a fee for the service. But I’m happy to have “free” access to the 6% they offer.