JSTOR does good

I am a vocal critic of the whole "pay ludicrous fees to access academic journal articles" model. I think that it is straight-up immoral to erect artificial barriers around and charge for access to this material — or at least the vast, vast majority which was given to the journals by the authors for free in the understanding that the journals would then disseminate it as widely as possible. As per, you know, the foundational ideals of academia.

But! I am not one to publish people for doing a less bad thing than they were before. So I was very, very happily surprised by JSTOR doing the right thing and opening up their pre-1923 archives to the public. They're like a bakery that still has monopoly power and caters only to the rich, but now puts unsalable goods out back for the poor instead of throwing them away. It's a step in the right direction and they have my thanks.

I guess for sciency types this old stuff is more or less worthless, but for us liberal artsoes, it's still good! You want to read an 1899 article about Hawaiian games? I got you covered.

50. Pu-kau-la.—A trick of twisting a cord around the fingers or tying it around the arm or leg in such manner that, while seemingly secure, it comes off with a slight pull. The name is from pu, and kau-la, a rope. Pu or puu among other meanings is explained by Andrews as "to cast or draw lots (a Hawaiian custom formerly in practice) by using a knotted string." This is a common amusement in Japan, but my Japanese acquaintances have no particular name for it. Dr Bolton tells me that in Austria-Hungary a similar trick is played by Bauern Fänger and is called Kettelziehen.

Simpler times.

Popularity factor: 9

Leonardo Boiko:

Despite the claim to the contrary in the FAQ, I find it likely to be a response to this:



I’m intrigued by the part about only freeing _part of_ their public domain content. What parts are we talking about, & what was the criteria for selection?


JSTOR doesn't control rights to the material--a lot of that is held elsewhere. Which is what irks me about the whole Swartz thing (other than messing with server closets, come on)--why couldn't they hack the for-profit European publishers? Like Elsevier?

But that's my reaction from having worked for an academic library on the digital side. Every time a prof was like, oh, let's just scan the article and put it online, my gut is THELAWYERSWONTLETUSYOURENOTTHEONEWHOGETSSUEDDAMNITLETUSATLEASTPLAUSIBLYDENYWHATLAWSYOUAREBREAKINGOKAY.

Pity those who have to stand betwixt things like the RIAA and deliberately clueless academic types, is all I'm saying.

Leonardo Boiko:

Is the legal situation so bad that JSTOR would be prevented from posting (all) _public domain_ content? The FAQ mentions economic reasons, not legal.


Yeah, JSTOR are far from the worst figures in the whole journal-industrial complex, if I understand it correctly. They just have the misfortune of being the most visible. But you gotta complain to someone.


Legal reasons are often really economic, as you pay a fee for rights clearance--and if the copyright is held overseas, the rules are sometimes nastily different.

Otherwise, I assume someone's done some monetary figures based on who's paying the server and bandwidth bills. It was pretty harsh when my undergrad school started putting in bandwidth limitations for ethernet in the dorms. And then I was shown the figures that were the outgoing payments.

Basically, how much that would cost if made freely available--and Google searchable--might depend on how typical our host is....

And yeah, I know why JSTOR gets the complaints. Which is why I haven't started any flamewars, and just stew and lick me some livers and gall, as it were.


I'm not really convinced by server and bandwidth bills, to be honest. These are academic journal articles, not Batman Rising. I'd be happy to call that bluff, in any case: there are plenty of technotopians who'd love to found "archive.org for academia". (But, of course, JSTOR isn't the one who makes that call, because they don't actually own the content.)


It's my understanding that in the sciences, almost everything goes up on arXiv, which basically is archive.org for academia. It's just the humanities who all suck at technology. Not that this should be in anyway surprising given that humanities people are interested in humanities and not technology.


Yeah, I don't know much about arXiv (being more on the arts side of things than not), but from what I hear, it's basically what I'm after: everything's there for free in near-final form, while real journals are becoming pure status-display venues that no-one actually bothers to read. Isn't it mostly math and physics, though, with medicine and biochem in particular still under the lash of pay-to-play publishers?


Actually, my understanding is that it's mostly math, and that physics is still under the lash. I'd be happy to be proved wrong, of course.

Aime la vérité, mais pardonne à l'erreur

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