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The coveted academic library is being made available to the 100 most active Wikipedia editors, who say they need better sources to do their jobs.
Perks are hard to come by in the world of Wikipedia editing. You can slave away all day and make veritable wiki-poetry out of, say, the John Berryman entry, and no one’s likely to congratulate you. (The best you can hope for is a barnstar.)
But now there’s a serious benefit to being a hardworking editor on the free encyclopedia: Journals. Lots and lots of academic journals.
Wikimedia, the the non-profit that runs the site, announced on Nov. 19 that the 1,600 academic journals held in the massive JSTOR academic library are now free to access for the site’s top 100 most-active editors (sucks to be number 101, huh?).
Non-Wikipedians are likely not squealing in excitement at this point. No one’s marching into their boss’s office and declaring they are done with this drudgery and are instead leaving for the fruitful bounties of the Wikipedia circuit.
But JSTOR, a non-profit, is a big deal for people who care deeply about knowledge—you know, like most Wikipedians. For Aaron Swartz, one of Reddit’s earliest employees, the JSTOR catalogue was so valuable he risked serious jail time to hack into it from an MIT closet. He got caught, was hit with 13 felony charges by the federal government, and never made good on his plans to post every article for free to file-sharing sites like The Pirate Bay.
A subscription to the complete, current collection of JSTOR journals costs $31,165.12 for a private corporation, and the discounted price for nonprofits is still over $30,000.
For Wikipedia’s top editors, JSTOR access means they’ll have a much easier time verifying information. In December of last year, 39 percent of editors cited this as their main gripe about the encyclopedia: They just didn’t have enough access to serious academic research material.
“Access to JSTOR, which is one of the most popular sources on English Wikipedia, will allow these editors to further fill in the gaps in the sum of all human knowledge,” the site noted in its official blog post.
“While Wikipedians are volunteers, their work on the encyclopedia is most definitely of a scholarly nature. We hope that this pilot will show that amazing things can happen when you provide dedicated volunteers with access to great source material.”
The post called the JSTOR cooperation a “pilot” program, hinting that Wikipedia may expand access to even more editors at some time soon. In the meantime, barnstars will have to suffice.
Image via Wikipedia
Kevin Morris is a veteran web reporter and editor who specializes in longform journalism. He led the Daily Dot’s esports vertical and, following its acquisition by GAMURS in late 2016, launched Dot Esports, where he serves as the site’s editor-in-chief.