Thanks to everyone who checked my NYT column archive and wrote in with your experience. Most people are getting only abstracts, although a few readers report that they can read full versions of the older columns. I've asked my editor at the Times for an explanation and, I hope, a policy change for my columns. Of course, the Times staff has more pressing concerns at the moment.
A couple of comments are worth passing on. Richard Gayle, who writes Corante's Living Code blog, writes:
I have been trying to figure out what has been happening with the NYT archives for some time. I used a lot of links to science articles for my Corante blog and noticed that I was getting abstracts instead of links when I examined old blog entries.
I think some of it depends on the browser. I use Safari on a Mac. If I go to one of your archive links in Safari, I get the abstract page. If I go to the same page using Internet Explorer, I get the article.
So, my guess is that the servers at the NYT are looking at what browser is being used and give the abstract or the article depending on which is used. I certainly do not think this is on purpose but it is very frustrating.
Anyway, that is what I have found. I am using much fewer links to NYT science articles because of this. Many articles in scientific journals require payment for immediate access but access is free for any article more than 6 months or a year old. Plus, if you read Science, Nature or PNAS a lot, simply getting a subscription gives you total access. As far as I can tell, having a subscription to the NYT does not get you free access to the archives. If it did, I would be recommending that everyone get a subscription!
Organizations, such as newspapers or scientific journals, that live by the dispersal of information are undergoing a lot of change right now and many are trying different approaches in response. It does make for interesting times.
The Times wouldn't even have to make access free to profit from a freer flow of information. WSJ subscribers can get the whole online edition for $29 a year; the Times seems to think its readers will pay that much to read just 10 of my columns. I'm afraid not.
Reader Scott Sendrow sends along a virtual clip from an ancient issue:
For what it's worth, I think the Times is more than fair in disseminating its body of work. Attached is an E-mail with a .pdf attachment of a Times article from way back when. This is a new feature that the New York Public Library has available to any person using a special electronic resources computer terminal in their microfilm reader room. The way it works is one browses the index, which works like Nexis (and it's easier than the Times' web archive feature, in my opinion), and a list of articles in reverse chronological order comes up (one can narrow down dates, too). These articles are viewable at the terminal in the library and there is an option available to E-mail the .pdf file directly to your E-mail account. In the attached instance, I was doing some research for work, and had this article sent to my account at work. I love it - it's how the article actually appeared in print and it's available for any article that has appeared through 1999 - that means from 1857 on! Of course, you have to go to the NYPL's main library at 42nd and Fifth, but I have to believe that it's just a matter of time before technology like this becomes available in many places.
Let's hope it spreads--and goes beyond the NYT to other periodicals.