May 11th, 2009

Why isn’t Everything in Full Text?

While searching the library databases, you may have noticed that not everything is available in full text from the library. Why is that? Is it because the librarians want to annoy you?

No, of course not. There are several reasons that you may not have access to the full text you want. Some are economic, some are historical, and some are a bit of both. Here are some of the common reasons you may run into article records with only an abstract:

  • When computerized databases first appeared, they couldn’t handle full text. The technology just wasn’t ready yet, so the index without full text is what showed up first.
  • There isn’t as much demand to digitize back in time. Most journals today automatically create a copy for online distribution, but digitizing everything from 1974 is not a very pressing priority.
  • Including older items raises the cost of library databases, even though the older content iscash in the least demand. Libraries have a hard enough time paying for recent content, so database companies are reluctant to raise prices just to include older stuff.
  • Some current journals are so expensive that the database companies don’t include them in their packages. When a journal subscription can cost as much as a small car, adding everything can make a database unaffordable to libraries.
  • Journals want to push paper sales. If a journal has an embargo, which stops the database from having the most recent issues, libraries are “forced” to buy both the paper journal and the digital version.
  • Some journals want to do all full-text sales themselves. They’re happy to let people learn that a journal article exists, but they also want to maximize the profit from the full text.

Even though you’re using these databases as part of your education, the academic publishing industry is a business. That’s an important fact to remember whenever you are looking at information – knowledge isn’t just power, it’s also money as well. And that will affect what you can access and when.

- Erin

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