JSTOR’s Register-and-Read Program
JSTOR, the online database of academic journals and publishing, recently announced an expansion of its “Register and Read” program, which had previously been available in a trial version that included only a few dozen journals. Register and Read will allow users who sign up to access up to three articles from 1,200 journals, every two weeks. Articles can be read online, but a smaller number will be available for download, for an additional fee.
For those used to using the regular JSTOR through an institution, or through an individual membership, these are fairly — no, very — severe limitations. But I can also see that for folks who have no access otherwise, who need a specific article or two, this new program might be very useful. Prospective users can download an Excel file listing the included journals here.
I’ve known and worked with a lot of academics in widely-divergent disciplines over the years, and I suspect they have mixed feelings about this move. Like everyone else who writes, whether it’s on a blog, or history, or fiction, or haiku, they all want more people to read their stuff, period. That’s all to the good.
On the other hand, the business model for academic journals is shaky already, heavily subsidized by universities paying tremendously-high subscription fees, and by charges dumped off on individual authors themselves (page fees, image reproduction fees, etc.) Making these same articles available to a wider audience, even on a small scale like the Register-and-Read program, isn’t going to make that situation any better, and may make it slightly worse.
It will be interesting to see what comes out of this.