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    17.3 Nature and Distribution of Use

    There are a total of 831,087 articles in the JSTOR database. Our use of the term "article" may be a bit misleading in that it refers to all items that are indexed as an item for retrieval. Full-length articles are a sub-set of this total, of which there are presently 356,978. Other "articles" are items like book reviews, letters to the editor, membership lists, and the like.

    The distribution of the use of JSTOR is interesting because it speaks to the extent to which JSTOR functions as an archive. Many libraries, particularly research and academic libraries, have a mission to collect not only that material that is likely to be used today, but also to collect and care for that information which may be valuable in the future. JSTOR has surprised us in the extent and degree that it has been used, but there is something to be learned also from what has not been used.

    After three years, 430,429 different articles have been viewed, representing 51.8% of all articles in the database. (Many of these articles have been viewed multiple times; the figure above relates to whether the article has ever been viewed.) 248,683 articles have been printed, representing 29.9% of all articles.

    Figure 17.2: The number of article views accounted for by the top n articlesFigure 17.2: The number of article views accounted for by the top n articles

    The complement to the statement above is that nearly half of the articles in the JSTOR database have never been viewed or printed. Will they ever be used? We do not know. Further, we find the distribution of use among the articles to be rather concentrated. Figure 17.2 presents the number of article views accounted for by the top n articles. For example, the top 100 articles viewed represent 112,072, or 2% of the total article views. The top 10,000 most viewed articles were viewed 1,987,982 times, or 36% of the total. And the top 100,000 most viewed articles were viewed 4,613,610 times, or 82 % of the total. This last figure means that 12% of the articles accounted for 82% of the views. This high concentration may be somewhat misleading because our count of total "articles", as mentioned before, includes all items in the database, such as reviews, and front matter and back matter, not just full length articles. Since it is natural that many of these items may never be viewed or cited, but are included in JSTOR to present the complete and comprehensive digital version of the originally published journal, this level of concentration probably should be expected. In any event, it is not a concern to JSTOR since its mission is to serve as an archive and not to make its decisions on preservation of content based on the amount of use of the various articles contained in the database.