In October, JSTOR announced the inclusion of sixty-three open access monographs, including those from UC Press’s OA program Luminos, on their aggregated content platform, Books at JSTOR. In the following Q&A, Books at JSTOR Director Frank Smith talks about why this is an important development for disseminating the long-form research of faculty in the humanities and social sciences.
What is the role of JSTOR in the discovery process for students and researchers?
JSTOR is one of the most heavily used online resources at universities and colleges. Students and researchers know—or at least we think they know—that the journals and books presented on JSTOR have been carefully chosen by JSTOR staff for their high academic quality. A very high percentage of the searches for content on JSTOR are from students, faculty, and other researchers who actually start on JSTOR, as opposed to coming in from the library catalog or Google.
Further, librarians have told us that they’re unlikely to catalog OA books because they’re worried about the quality of some OA titles “in the wild,” and it is too much work for them to “opt-in” even OA books from respected publishers if they are not able to do so at scale. Books at JSTOR seems to be one good solution to those problems: JSTOR is a trusted source for content, and having OA titles delivered at greater scale gives librarians incentive to opt-in to cataloging those titles via MARC records and their web-scale discovery partners, so that OA book metadata is available to their patrons not just via search, but also through libraries’ own discovery systems.
Why did you decide to host open access books on JSTOR?
The open access books we are hosting come from publishers who we know employ high standards, including peer review, in their publishing decisions. So in one sense the open access books we are hosting are the same as books for which we sell licenses, which is to say we think they will be valuable for anyone doing academic research. A second reason to host open access books is to try to make JSTOR a more valuable resource for researchers who may not have university affiliations or may be in developing countries. (Through the generosity of many publishers, we also offer “read only” access to many journals for researchers without affiliations.) Third, OA books increase the amount of high quality content on JSTOR and we think thereby will make it a more valuable research platform.
What do you hope the future will hold for open access books on Books at JSTOR?
We hope of course that the books will be valuable to researchers. We also hope that by collecting data on the use of the books we can contribute in a meaningful way to discussions about the growth of open access publishing.
Also, the systems for books that are sold—publishing systems, library cataloging systems, and discovery systems—are ill suited to maximize the distribution of OA content. We’re facing a new version of trying to fit the square peg into the round hole. Books at JSTOR plays an important role then in being one of the first for-purchase content aggregators to incorporate OA books into our workflows and collections, which will ultimately help OA book publishing and readership as a whole.