I’ve written here several times about the growing trend among organizations, including The Royal Society, Princeton, Yale, and the National Academies Press, to make some or all of their content available at no charge on the Web. Now Technology Review is reporting that JStor, an extensive archive of scholarly publications, is about to begin a program to provide free access to articles from 70 different journals in its database.
An organization that maintains a huge database of academic research plans to soon let the public view some of the trove of information for free—a big boost for the idea of “open access” to the world’s knowledge.
JStor, which is run by a non-profit organization, was set up in the mid-1990s to relieve libraries of the burden of storing and cataloging paper journals. Its total archive includes more than 1,400 journals, so the material to be included in the beta Register & Read program is just a small chunk of the archive, but JStor indicates that more content may be added if the initial experiment is successful.
JStor previously launched its Early Journal Content program, which provides free access to journal articles published prior to 1923 in the United States and prior to 1870 elsewhere. The organization says that both this and the Register & Read program are part of an attempt to find sustainable ways to provide JStor access to people not affiliated with a participating institution.
Obviously, there is a significant cost associated with running a facility like JStor, and the money to pay the bills has to come from somewhere. I think JStor is to be commended for trying to provide better free access; there are many people in the world who have no realistic chance of getting “official” access, and it’s just possible that some of them might have significant contributions to make.