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JSTOR Tests Free, Read-Only Access to Some Articles

It’s about to get a little easier—emphasis on “a little”—for users without subscriptions to tap JSTOR’s enormous digital archive of journal articles. In the coming weeks, JSTOR will make available the beta version of a new program, Register & Read, which will give researchers read-only access to some journal articles, no payment required. All users have to do is to sign up for a free “MyJSTOR” account, which will create a virtual shelf on which to store the desired articles.

But there are limits. Users won’t be able to download the articles; they will be able to access only three at a time, and there will be a minimum viewing time frame of 14 days per article, which means that a user can’t consume lots of content in a short period. Depending on the journal and the publisher, users may have an option to pay for and download an article if they choose.

To start, the program will feature articles from 70 journals. Included in the beta phase are American Anthropologist, the American Historical Review, Ecology, Modern Language Review, PMLA, College English, the Journal of Geology, the Journal of Political Economy, Film Quarterly, Representations, and the American Journal of Psychology .

The 7o journals chosen “represent approximately 18 percent of the annual turn-away traffic on JSTOR,” the organization said in an announcement previewing Register & Read. “Once we evaluate how the beta is going, including any impact on publishers’ sales of single articles, and make any needed initial adjustments to the approach, we expect to release hundreds more journals into the program.”

Every year, JSTOR said, it turns away almost 150 million individual attempts to gain access to articles. “We are committed to expanding access to scholarly content to all those who need it,” the group said. Register & Read is one attempt to do that.

In September 2011, JSTOR also opened up global access to its Early Journal Content. According to Heidi McGregor, a spokeswoman for the Ithaka group, JSTOR’s parent organization, there have been 2.35 million accesses of the Early Journal Content from September 2011 through December 2011. “About 50% of this usage is coming from users we know are at institutions that participate in JSTOR (e.g. we recognize their IP address), and the other 50% is not,” she said in an e-mail. ”We absolutely consider this to be a success. In the first four months after launch, we are seeing over 1 million accesses to this content by people who would not have had access previously. This is at the core of our mission, and we’re thrilled with this result.  The Register & Read beta is an exciting next step that we are taking, working closely with our publisher partners who own this content.”

Ms. McGregor said that JSTOR would consider expanding the three-article, 14-day restrictions, depending on how the beta test goes. “We are testing whether we can provide more free access in ways that help people around the world but that also balance the need to sustain, preserve, and invest in services to support the use of this content going forward,” she said.

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