AMA Backfiles Collection: A Little Confusing to the End User

I can’t recall when the American Medical Association announced the release of their Backfiles Collection for JAMA and the Archives went online.  According to their site they began the process back in October 2008 with Archives of Internal Medicine.  But when I look on JAMA’s website, there is little information about that specific collection.  I searched the publication’s front page, Past Issues page and the Institutional Subscription page, and I could find nothing on their site mentioning JAMA’s collection from 1883 – 1998.  Their Institutional Subscription page does say “The JAMA & Archivessite license allows institutions to provide instant organization-wide access to the journals from 1998 forward for all faculty and patrons.”  Yet there is nothing about the backfiles collection and accessing articles older than 1998. 

I find JAMA’s Past Issues page the most confusing.  There is no mention on that page that articles from 1883-1998 are part of the backfiles collection cost extra and are not part of a standard subscription.  This is extremely confusing to library patrons and librarians.  Imagine a library patron clicks on the link to JAMA goes to the Past Issues page looking for a specific article from 1997 (or older).  They are met with the ever helpful log in page that says, “The article you have attempted to access is part of the JAMA Backfiles collection. You may purchase One Time Access to this article (see below). This collection is also available via institutional purchase. Contact your librarian to recommend this collection.”  It is only after you click on the link for institutional purchase that you are brought to a page containing information about AMA’s Backfiles Collection. 

I have found that most online journals that charge extra for their backfiles are a little more up front to end users about access to the collection.  For example, the American Journal of Physiology  not only separates the date ranges for their regular content and their Legacy Archive, but they also have a link to Purchase Information right next to the date range so end users have some help understanding that it isn’t free.  The AMA does no such thing for JAMA or the Archives.  They do separate date ranges.  For example, with JAMA 1998-Present is separate from 1960-1997, and 1883-1959, but there is nothing to indicate that the older content is not available unless you pay another fee above and beyond your regular subscription fee.

This also seems to cause some problems within A-Z and link resolving programs.  Now days there thousands of journals with limited access and we cannot keep track of them.  Librarians rely up on these A-Z and link resolver programs to manage their collections.  So it is frustrating to librarians and end users when the linking doesn’t work the way it should by trying to provide access to unavailable resources. 

AMA’s poor design and complete lack of information about the Backfiles collection on their Past Issues pages for JAMA and the Archives and their Institutional Subscription page can cause some headaches among end users and librarians trying to access older articles.

One thought on “AMA Backfiles Collection: A Little Confusing to the End User”

  1. Hi Krafty,

    Info about JAMA & the various AMA Archives can be found at

    Although there’s a link from this backfiles page to AMA’s JAMA & Archives page (, I — like you — wasn’t able to find a link anywhere on the AMA site to this backfiles page they have.

    Who knows? Maybe this stealth strategy is the latest trend in marketing…

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