A few emails and I’ll get off of this:
I am long time reader of yours and always enjoy your
posts on The Corner. I am a graduate student in
library science (graduating in 3 weeks) and have done
some research on the issue of electronic databases
such as JSTOR and their place in the academic world.
Make no mistake all of the database providers (JSTOR,
Project Muse, Lexis, etc) are for-profit entities.
All of them contract with various publishers to
provide abstracts or full-text articles. The database
providers then turn around and charge a large amount
of money to libraries for access to the material. At
my university the library pays close to $20,000 per
year for access to JSTOR alone – and this fee only
provides for 6 simultaneous users (out of a campus
population of 30,000+)
Another aspect of the database access is the
limitation of non-university users. At my public
university anyone may come into the library and use
the electronic databases. However, the contract with
the database limits off campus use to only those
affiliated with the university. This is true of the
majority of our electronic databases.
While the libraries and universities are here to
provide access, they are limited by the databases
providers themselves. Right now it appears that the
database providers have the upper hand.
As a Master’s of Library Science student, I know I can’t believe it’s a master’s
program either, I must say that if the public has access to everything we do
then the prospects of me getting a good job after I graduate is severely
reduced. So I guess it is mostly self-interest that keeps you plebs, from
breaching the JSTOR walls.
Oh yes JSTOR is fantastic! The problem with opening the floodgates and
letting everyone have access to this great resource (and other such
resources) is that the agreements which libraries sign with vendors
specifically forbids us to do so. JSTOR access is supposed to be
restricted to the college’s or universities’ own patrons. In fact the
prices that we pay are determined in part by the number of users we have.
This is simple economics in some ways. JSTOR is very expensive to produce
and the company which does this, unlike the colleges and universities, is
not a non-profit. Were one library to simply allow free access to all and
sundry, there would be no need for many libraries to subscribe and JSTOR
would go out of business.
Perhaps you could see if you could get access through a large public
library, a scholarly organization (such as the AEI), or possibly in-person
access at a local college or university. The college or university would
not be allowed to offer you off-campus access. Or you could find a friend
who is an academic (there are some conservatives on campus!) and have him
share his access with you. The latter suggestion by the way is not an
official suggestion. It does violate the terms of the agreement with
JSTOR. Still I know it is done. Just keep it under your hat.
Keep up the good work at NRO!