JSTOR now offers free, limited access for registered individual users

JSTORFour years ago, at a conference, I asked a JSTOR representative if the organization could offer an individual a subscription to its database of more than 1,600 academic journals. The sympathetic salesperson told me they were working on a solution. It was one of those sad “Aren’t we all?” moments.

Today, I’m swallowing my cynicism, because JSTOR has just provided free, limited journal access for individuals.

I know. Nerd alert.

I signed up for JSTOR’s Register & Read program, which allows me to view up to three journal articles during a two-week period. After the two weeks have passed, I can view three more articles online. With some publications, it’s possible to purchase PDF downloads of the individual articles.

The JSTOR web interface includes a “Rights and Permissions” feature. If I wanted to, I could click on the “More Rights Options” link to obtain reprint authorization through a rights licensing service such as the Copyright Clearance Center.

I chose a short story in an old issue of Ploughshares. A ribbon on the preview page indicated I could “Read Online Free” if I followed the prompts to make it one of my three shelved selections for the next two weeks. If the Register & Read option wasn’t available for an item, then I could see a one-page preview with the option to purchase a download (in one instance, at a cost of $12) or the notation “Preview or purchase options are not available.” I was able to view some complete poems without either saving or purchasing them. The database would be a bit more user-friendly if all degrees of availability were listed on every item and if an article’s terms of access were checkmarked (or inapplicable terms were grayed out). Nevertheless, JSTOR is easier to use than some of the other periodicals databases available at libraries.

JSTOR was established by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in 1995 and, two years later, began providing access to its online library of scholarly journals, through subscriptions paid for by academic and cultural institutions.

Some public libraries offer their cardholders access to JSTOR. My local library doesn’t, but nearby college and university libraries do.

Ithaka merged with JSTOR in 2009. The expanded not-for-profit organization is called Ithaka, and the three services it provides are:

  • JSTOR – an online subscription-based database of scholarly publications, including both periodicals and books
  • Portico – an electronic archiving system for publishers
  • Ithaka S+R – strategic consulting and research concerning academic digitization projects

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