Economics and Usage of Digital Libraries: Byting the BulletSkip other details (including permanent urls, DOI, citation information)
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17.1 Comparing JSTOR Use to the Usage of the Journals in Paper Format
As part of the original JSTOR pilot project, an effort was made to collect circulation and usage information for the ten pilot journals. The hope was that the data would serve as a benchmark for comparison purposes. Unfortunately, it was not easy to collect reliable data. Since many of the journals were available in open stacks, it was not possible to obtain accurate circulation figures (although some circulation data were obtained from the University Reserves office at the University of Michigan Library). Instead of regular circulation data, two counting methods were employed to obtain information about use of these journals. First, slips of paper were placed in each journal volume with a request that a user mark when they had used the volume. Signs were also placed in the area of the journals to instruct users of the survey being conducted. Second, staff at the library pilot sites were instructed to check the shelves each business day for several months and make note of which volumes were not on the shelves. The volumes not on the shelves were counted as having been used.
Also, only the journal volumes housed on the main library shelves at the participating pilot libraries were included in this work. Usage of the paper volumes in faculty offices or in departmental libraries was not captured. Because of the lack of a controlled environment and the relatively narrow scope of this study, one must be careful about conclusions drawn when comparing these data to site license access to JSTOR at the institutions.
It does appear, however, that the electronic articles in JSTOR are being used much more frequently than they were used in the paper form. The paper usage data was collected over varying lengths of times at the five institutions that returned data, but a minimum of three months of information was collected. There were a total of 692 uses of the ten journals at the five test sites over the course of the entire survey period. Usage of the same journals in JSTOR at the same five sites for the months of September, October and November of 1999 yields a total of more than 7,696 article views. In addition, although there is presumably substantial overlap in articles viewed and those printed, 4,885 articles were printed — a total of 12,581 views and prints during the three month time period. When compared to the 692 uses in the benchmarking survey, it would seem that the convenience of having electronic access is facilitating greatly increased use of the material.
Another way to assess whether usage of the older journals in electronic form is greater than in paper is by evaluating the growth in usage. As Andrew Odlyzko points out in Chapter 2, growth rates may matter more than absolute numbers. It is rather unlikely that the usage of older articles in paper form was growing at measurable rates. That contrasts markedly with usage of JSTOR (as well as other resources discussed in this book). Growth in the aggregate use of the JSTOR database has increased dramatically in the period since 1997 when it first became available. Table 17.2 below shows the total accesses to the database by institution type. Total accesses to all content in the database increased 4.4 times from 1997 to 1998 and 3 times from 1998 to 1999.
|JSTOR Class||Accesses 1997||Accesses 1998||1997-1998 Growth Factor||Accesses 1999||1998-1999 Growth Factor|
Because some of the growth in aggregate usage of JSTOR is a result of new institutions signing up for the database during this time period, we have compiled usage figures at institutions that had JSTOR installed prior to April 1, 1997. Aggregate accesses at these institutions increased by a factor of 3.4 times from 1997 to 1998 and by a factor of 2.5 times from 1998 to 1999. The cumulative growth of usage over the three-year time period at existing sites is 740%!
As one contemplates this impressive growth in JSTOR usage, it is perhaps valuable to note that JSTOR is available "for free" to end users. Libraries have paid participation site license fees that allow authorized users (faculty, staff, and students) to make unlimited use of the resource. For the most part, authentication is handled by IP address, thereby making the authentication process virtually invisible. This unfettered access contributes to the rapid growth in use of the resource; it is consistent with the kind of growth one is seeing in other resources available on the World Wide Web. This picture might be very different indeed if JSTOR were charging either users or libraries based on usage.