Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Paper of Record, now off the record

Historians' discussion groups are filling with fury about the disappearance of Paper of Record, an online repository of old newspapers from around the world. Researchers, graduate students, and genealogists around the world made Paper of Record (a venture launched by a Canadian company, Cold North Wind) their go-to source for searches through back issues of many major and minor newspapers in Canada, Mexico, Australia, and other countries.

Problem? Paper of Record was acquired by Google late in 2008. Cold North Wind's website now defaults to something in Japanese, and a search for "Paper of Record" defaults to Google News Archives.

And apparently everything researchers liked about PoR has vanished from Google News Archives.
Unfortunately many, perhaps all, of the newspapers previously available cannot now be accessed or even found on the Google website. Google has not been very cooperative in offering advice or explanation as to when the newspapers will be returned for searching and access.
says a user in Australia, and another weighs in:
I am writing a thesis on an indigenous rebellion that took place in Oaxaca on the eve of the Revolution, and now, with this useless Google search I am totally screwed. Way to go!
A third passes on a dire suspicion:
bad news as I suspected is Google bought the whole deal for 3 million dollars, and he thinks they will eventually relist it for a per article fee. Every other paper they list is $3.95 an article which would break me.
(Thanks to the discussion on this site for quotations.)

As far as I could trace, most PoR access was via university library sites, accessible only to university faculty and staff holding library cards -- suggesting PoR was never free, it was paid for by university library subscriptions. Presumably these subscriptions have yet to be replicated through Google. Whether Google will match the searchability PoR apparently provided, or charge per-view fees, or smother the site with ads, remains to be seen.

Meanwhile many disgruntled users are recommending or (for a monthly fee) as alternatives.
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