Dramatic changes are afoot at the New York Times website. First they hire one of my favorite web-design bloggers, Khoi Vinh, to head their web design department (see his eloquent post on the subject). Then they release their beautiful new look that just about everyone is raving about. Jack Schafer of slate.com thinks it’s so good, in fact, that he’s ready to cancel his subscription to the paper version: I’m Canceling My Times Subscription.
Unlike my brother, who doesn’t trust “that liberal newspaper,” I’ve loved reading the Times online for years. My favorite part is the Editorials section, so one other change in the last year or so has left me quite displeased: they moved my favorite columnists, Paul Krugman and Maureen Dowd, behind a subscription-only firewall. Since I’m
cheap stingy and unwilling to fork over the necessary cash, I figured I’d have to miss out on two of the best editorial journalists in the country.
But the other day I remembered a little resource that I used quite a bit while I was teaching high school English. The Grand Rapids Public Library has a collection of online databases available to anyone with a library card and an internet connection. Hosted by InfoTrac, the New York Times collection houses the full text of 576,883 articles, as of today. There used to be a 30-day lag between the publication date and the date the articles were searchable through the database, but now all articles are indexed the day they are published.
I still prefer the official New York Times website. It’s more pleasing to the eye and a whole lot easier to browse. The InfoTrac database could never replace it. But as a way to get for free what I’d otherwise have to pay for, the ugly-looking database hidden behind the library-card gateway is a beautiful thing.
I suspect that other libraries have a similar deal with InfoTrac to provide the New York Times to their members. So, if you belong to your local public library, check out the reference tools on their website. Who knows? You just might find something you didn’t know you could get for free.