Economics and Usage of Digital Libraries: Byting the BulletSkip other details (including permanent urls, DOI, citation information)
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This paper provides a brief overview of preliminary information emerging from JSTOR usage data. As JSTOR usage increases, more interesting questions about the way that retrospective electronic collections are used can and should be asked and investigated. Although it is still too early to draw conclusions, and much more data will need to be collected, evidence points to preliminary hypotheses in five primary areas.
Electronic access seems to have increased the use of older materials at JSTOR participating sites.
The interdisciplinary nature of JSTOR seems to be valued by researchers and students.
Citation data alone is not a good predictor of electronic usage, and probably should not be used to make digitization decisions for retrospective content.
Older literature seems to remain valuable in many fields.
Care should be taken to insure that there is clear understanding of the definition of "value" for research articles. Judging by the nature of the JSTOR articles that are most used, valuable research articles are not always those that push forward the research and intellectual understanding of an academic discipline; they may very well be "popular" articles used in larger classes. "Value" needs to be clearly defined as libraries consider acquisition and cancellation decisions for electronic content.
What this preliminary evaluation of JSTOR usage does indicate is that electronic databases are leading us into new territory. Their availability impacts the use of scholarly resources in profound ways. It should come as no surprise that improving the convenience of access to an article increases the likelihood and frequency of use of that article. But does that impact the inherent value of the article? In evaluating usage of these materials, we will have to take a long view, as we cannot rely on old metrics, methods, and intuition to guide our sense of value. It will take time before we reach a new level of understanding — a kind of new equilibrium — of the relevant measures that will enable us to make useful comparisons between and among various resources.