Today JSTOR, the global, non-profit digital library of thousands of journals, books, and primary sources, and Apex CoVantage (Apex), the innovative digitization and publishing solutions leader, mark the 20-year anniversary of their relationship. The organizations have pioneered the high-quality conversion of academic publications from analog to digital form, breathing new life into millions of pages of scholarly research dating back to the 1600s.
JSTOR was founded in the mid-1990s, initially as a grant-funded project from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to the University of Michigan, to test a hypothesis that libraries could save money and improve access to research by creating a centralized database and preservation service that housed digitized versions of the most common journals sitting on their shelves. Library patrons across the world could access the database, and those that held print copies could move them to lower-cost offsite storage. After a proof of concept with a small set of journals in economics and history, JSTOR sought out expertise in large-scale scanning, metadata creation, and OCR (optical character recognition) to help accelerate its work. In 1998, it entered into a contract with Apex to digitize the complete back runs of four journals to JSTOR’s exacting specifications, among them the venerable PNAS and Science, and shortly thereafter, the Proceedings and Transactions of the Royal Society.
JSTOR and Apex have worked collaboratively over the past 20 years to develop new approaches, like creating software to improve the rendering of color images embedded in the pages of text documents and software to capture academic citations to support linking among documents. As a result, JSTOR and Apex have converted more than 50 million pages of content across the humanities, social and life sciences and in fifteen languages.
For both JSTOR and Apex, the most rewarding projects they’ve tackled are those that require the development of new solutions. Recently JSTOR engaged Apex to provide insights and conversion services for a Yad Hanadiv-funded project with the University of Haifa and individual scholars to add journals written in Hebrew to the JSTOR library. The project required developing the capability for users to search content written right to left on jstor.org and finding a way to create a search index for material with special diacritical marks known as nikkud. The organizations are building off this expertise and, with a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, are now engaged in a project to investigate the practicality of large-scale digitization of Arabic scholarly journals.
Blast From the Past
What the JSTOR Homepage Looked Like a Few Weeks After They Began Working with Apex CoVantage (Captured December 12, 1998; via Wayback Machine)