JSTOR Grants Free, But Limited Access to Content

JSTOR, the online database that boasts access to more than one thousand academic journals, is often the first stop for a college student embarking on a research project on just about anything. Now, the online service is offering some of its online wares for free.

The Chronicle of Higher Educaton writes that the Register & Read program will provide read-online access to students, scholars, and researchers after they register for a MyJSTOR account. When members find useful journal articles, images, letters, or other resources on the JSTOR database, they can simply add these items to their shelf, which is the equivalent of the "shopping cart" commonly found on other retail sites. Users can add up to three items to their shelf, where the content will be accessible for 14 days. Only after this time elapses can users replace these articles with others, which means that users will not be able to skim through several articles in a short period.

There are other caveats, too. The articles will display as image files, so that text cannot be copied, and not all content is part of the Register & Read program. At launch, it will include approximately 70 journals from more than 30 publishers. Some of the more recognizable journals on the list include Film Quarterly, American Historical Review, and Modern Language Review. In an announcement previewing Register & Read, the organization mentioned plans to increase the amount of available content at a later date.

JSTOR said that the organization turns away almost 150 million individual attempts to gain access to the site’s articles. The Register & Read program targets users are not affiliated with the subscribing institutions that pay for access to JSTOR’s content. JSTOR charges these subscribers, primarily libraries, up to $50,000 annually for the service.

For the time being, users may be able to purchase and download some of these available titles if they choose, but this depends largely on the journal and the publisher. There is no word yet on what exactly JSTOR’s future plans for the program are, but a spokesperson revealed that the company may consider expanding the three-article, 14-day restriction program, depending on the outcome of the beta testing.

Inside Higher Ed writes that JSTOR is simply doing what other companies such as Netflix and Amazon have already done. They hope that the program will provide them with more information on the individual users who seek their content. Then, they can gather information on the type of content they want and discover ways to make recommendations based on users’ activity. Regardless, it is another way in which open source tools are becoming increasingly pervasive, and previously paid-for content is becoming increasingly accessible to Internet users. This is good news indeed for online students looking for another great resource for research materials.

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