JSTOR, which has been criticized by open-access advocates for keeping its content behind a paywall, is opening some of its early content up for free perusal by the public, reports Brian Bergstein at the Technology Review Editors blog. JSTOR maintains a database of academic journal articles — about 6 percent of its content will now be free, though that only includes articles that were published before 1923 in the US or before 1870 elsewhere in the world. "It's a small step, but it's an important one, because it is a recognition by JSTOR that it should make its stockpile of academic knowledge more broadly accessible," Bergstein says. The issue of open-access information has become "contentious" lately, he adds, culminating in the recent arrest of Internet activist Aaron Swartz, who allegedly broke into MIT to download 4.8 million articles from JSTOR's archive. To use JSTOR freely, a user has to be a part of an institution with a subscription to the database — readers without a subscription can buy article one by one, but that can get pricey, Bergstein says. Critics say this limits the audience of research journals to "elite readers even though the Internet should be facilitating a flourishing of access to information," he adds. This change, though small, is being acknowledged by JSTOR's critics as a good start.
A Step in the Right Direction
Sep 14, 2011