Apparently what happened was that the new JSTOR interface, which includes its new current journals initiative, by default showed all materials, even those not covered in an institution's subscription. Oh, and instead of using OpenURL as Google Scholar does to show what's available at an institution, JSTOR provided a handy link to purchase the articles online for a handsome fee.
Quite understandably, this upset a lot of people, especially a lot of librarians, since students might be less likely to try another database (as faculty might) and might click on the pricey link instead.
JSTOR was shocked, SHOCKED to think that anyone believed they had done this for money:
"Did you have to make concessions that benefit your publishing partners but hurt the end user?”To JSTOR's credit, the interface has been fixed so that you can opt to see only materials at your institution, and some OpenURL features have been implemented. JSTOR wants to be a web portal, in some ways, so that students will look there first for content instead of the MLA Bibliography. I get what they're trying to do.
“Absolutely not,” Guthrie, the JSTOR founder, told Inside Higher Ed on Wednesday afternoon. “We’re absolutely not trying to have users purchase articles they already have access to.”
But I'm glad that IHE and the librarians called JSTOR out on this, just as Facebook users have called out Facebook every time it introduces a new "feature" to decrease privacy and monetize users' personal information. It seems to me this is part of a larger trend where customers are pushing back when trusted, or formerly trusted, institutions are capitalizing on users' trust to make more profits. At the post office, for example, you have to decline all the expensive options and extras one by one, repeating "media mail, please" until the person behind the counter gives up and stops trying to sell you next-day delivery.
In these times, it's probably inevitable that institutions, even those that profess a noble mission, will use whatever means they can to make whatever money they can. Maybe that's why students need us to teach them critical thinking about all the alternatives, not only in the matter of databases but in other consumer-driven decisions as well.