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With the upcoming Grammy Awards I’ll indulge in recording industry metaphors for the next couple of weeks. Online music stores (iTunes, Amazon, etc.) let you download–after you’ve purchased it–an individual song or an entire album. Likewise a library database lets you view (if we’ve purchased the subscription) an individual article or the entire issue. Why does this similarity matter?
In both cases you can lose something by taking the individual item out of context. Is the song part of a concept album or a soundtrack, for example? Is the article part of a special issue?
On the other hand you gain convenience. Why should you pay for a whole album when you want one particular song? Why would you read an entire issue when you want one particular article?
Those new to academic research may not be familiar with article databases. They may either own an MP3 player or at least understand the concept of music downloads. Perhaps the analogy might make journals and databases more understandable.