[Update 1: see the response from Brian Larsen, User Services Manager, JSTOR, in the comment below. I commend them for reading, responding, and for trying to make JSTOR easier to use.]
[Update 2: IT WORKS! Brian has done it (for Carleton anyway, and I think he's working on the rest). And I don't even have to dowload a pdf!]
OK, I know I'm really bad at doing this sort of thing, but all the same. It has just taken me about 15 minutes, plus a lot of sweat, to get access to an article via JSTOR. It's "free" for me, because Carleton University pays for a subscription; but it's certainly not "free" in terms of my time and sweat. I find the whole thing incredibly frustrating. It's not just the time and sweat; I don't like being reminded I'm an idiot at this sort of thing. It makes me angry.
And it makes me wonder what it all means, for the future, for many of us, and not just for JSTOR.
But not with JSTOR.
So, I'm reading Mark Thoma's daily links, as I normally do in the morning. David Glasner's post on W.H. Hutt, Say's Law, and the Keynesian multiplier looks interesting, so I click on it, and start reading. (See how totally easy everything is so far; just one click and I'm reading!) Halfway down David's post I come to a link to one of David's papers that looks really interesting. And that's when the trouble starts. I click on it. Damn! It's a JSTOR!
I read the first page, which is free, and, much more importantly, free and easy. But I know I really should read more. And I want to read more. But I really hate the stress of figuring out how to read more. It's like trying to concentrate to do something difficult, when all the time someone's looking over your shoulder laughing at you and calling you an idiot. But I'm determined. So I gather up my courage and forge ahead.
Last time I accessed an article on JSTOR this is what I did (though I certainly don't remember all the many steps): I wrote down the journal, volume, month, page, etc. on a scrap of paper. I then went to the Carleton homepage, tried to remember if I needed to access the library via MyCarleton and Carleton Central because it needed to know it was me trying to get into JSTOR and not some random person coming in off the web. So I logged into MyCarleton and after an abortive attempt to find the library that way, went back to the homepage, found the link to the library, looked around for what to click on next, decided to click on "Journals", then put the journal title in the search box....went down a couple of dead-end paths, and finally figured out how to do it by trial and error. The totally amazing thing is (apart from the fact that I didn't give up and actually succeeded in downloading the article) is that my home computer actually knew what my login and password was!! I have no idea how it did that. It must know I'm an idiot, and it must have rolled its eyes and decided to remember my login and password from last time I used JSTOR. My login is a great long number I can find on my Carleton ID card. I have no idea what my password is, but my computer does.
This time I got smart, or just lucky, or maybe something has changed. Looking at the JSTOR page I noticed a little box on the top right, which asked me "Think you might have access to this content via your library?" Well, yes, I did think that. So I clicked on the little box. Nothing happened. Then I looked more closely at the little box, and noticed it said "login" underneath in small print. So I tried again, by clicking on "login". That worked.
I now had a confusing page that asked me to log in to JSTOR on the left, or log in via an institution on the right. I thought about it a bit, then noticed on the right it said "Are you in Canada?" That was a question I could answer. "Yes!" I thought, "I am in Canada!" (I don't know what I would have answered if I had been on holiday in England.) Plus, it listed some Canadian universities underneath. "Great!". Carleton wasn't listed, but it did say "show more", so I clicked there.
A whole list of countries came up (Didn't I already say I was in Canada?) but Canada was in blue, so OK. Then a list of provinces. I scrolled down to Ontario. (I'm in Quebec, but Carleton is in Ontario, so I figured it probably meant where Carleton was rather than where I was). I clicked on Ontario. Ontario turned blue, but nothing else happened. I double-clicked on Ontario. Still nothing. Hmmm.
Then I noticed a search box. So I typed in "Carleton", clicked on "Carleton University", clicked on "search", noticed a tiny "login" to the right of Carleton, so clicked on it, was amazed to discover my computer still knew my login and password, and knew I needed them right now, so I WAS IN!
Only, no I wasn't. This is the bit that really bugs me. JSTOR was asking me what I was searching for, and asking me whether I wanted to search by discipline: African American Studies? African Studies? American Indian Studies?.....No Dammit! I want that article by David Glasner! You know, the one I was reading the first page of about 20 clicks ago! That's how I got here in the first place! Surely you haven't forgotten what I was just reading? Because I have. What the hell was that journal anyway? And what volume, and month, or whatever? I can't remember. It's computers that are supposed to remember stuff like that!
I forgot to write down the journal, year, and month, on a scrap of paper. What do I do now? I daren't go back, because I will never find my way here again. Maybe I should open a new tab, go back to Mark Thoma's blog, and retrace my steps from there?
Then I got smart. (OK, smart for me). I opened a new tab, clicked on history, and found the first JSTOR page I had come to, with all the details about David's article. Eventually, eventually, after typing in "Southern Economic Journal", finding it, clicking on the right decade, then the right year, then the right month, than the right article, (I was getting good by now), I managed to download a pdf. Success at last!
Success? Well I don't really call that success. I call it a PITA.
It should have been ONE CLICK. Maybe two clicks, if you include the login. Remember, my computer knows my login and password, even if I don't. And JSTOR already knew what article I wanted, because it was the one I was just reading the first page of on the JSTOR site!
There's a more general point here, that all you clever young people reading this need to understand. And it's not just about de facto open access to research, even when we've paid the fee (or someone's paid it for us).
You all have your smartphones and Ipads and kindles and GPS thingies in your (automatic tranny) cars, and you are all very comfortable using them (though I bet you can't change a spark plug). You are all comfortably "connected". Not just to the internet, but to society and all its institutions. But there's a lot of people like me in the population. And a lot of them are a lot poorer, and (in other ways) less functional, and generally, a lot less lucky and successful in life than I am. They don't have my resources.
What's going to happen to people like me, only poorer, older, sicker, without family or friends to help? And even less capable than I am? Will we still be part of the same society?
Will we all be begging for spare change, simply because we can't figure out how to get pensions and stuff the proper way, by just "It's easy, if you just follow these simple techno-geek steps"?
No. We won't be begging for spare change. Because spare change will all be E-money, so we won't even be able to do that!
OK. Time to try to read David's article.
[Update: i expect I really shouldn't whine. After all, if I had to drive into Carleton, park, walk to the library, hunt through the card file, write down the location of the journal on a scrap of paper, walk up a couple of flights of stairs, find the right stacks, find the right volume, figure out if I can photocopy the article legally, find the right change for the photocopier, find a free photocopier, photocopy the article, go back to my car, drive home, just like I would have had to in the olden days, it would have taken me a lot longer and a lot more sweat, especially through traffic and on a hot day like this.]