I am definitely a book person. When I want to learn about something, I want to read hundreds of pages about it. I have a half dozen books on copyright, more than a dozen about the social "questions" around the Internet, a handful on the Semantic Web, two shelves of books on libraries (history, cataloging, theory of knowledge organization), and now four books on cognitive science and the theories around concepts.
I've done work with people who are definitely "article people." Mostly academics, these folks rarely delve into a book since their scholarly conversation takes place in articles published in journals. My guess is that once you reach the level of knowledge that these folks possess, the breadth of a book contains nothing new and all of the interesting stuff comes out in article-sized chunks.
I also like to follow-up on my reading. When a bit of reading focuses around a place, like Bletchley Park or Los Alamos (as recent books on computer history do) I have to find them on a map. Concepts mentioned but not covered in detail require a visit to Wikipedia. I hunt down works cited in particularly intriguing passages. And it is in the midst of this last activity that I run into perhaps a hint about my attraction to books.
Because I am "unaffiliated" with an institute of higher education, it is easier for me to obtain books than to obtain articles. Books are available used or new in an open marketplace, and I find it to be rare that there is reference to a book that I cannot get at what seems to me to be a reasonable rate. But when I look up an article that I might be interested in, I often get something like:
Yes, Wiley asks for $29.95 for an article, and JSTOR asks $38.00. I have seen these prices on articles as short as six pages. These prices are for the download of a PDF file, not an offprint to be delivered by express mail. I can only assume that they have no desire to sell access to individual articles, because the pricing is so out of whack with retail publishing. Remember, these are academic articles that quite frankly haven't a large audience. But they already exist in PDF and are available to members of subscribing institutions. In a world of $.99 pop songs and $9.99 best-selling e-books, these prices are just absurd.
One of the books I am reading at the moment is a compilation of essays called "Concepts: core readings." At least five of the essays were previously published in journals and when I looked them up the download price was $39.95 each. That's about $200 for 100 pages of a 650-page book that retails for $55.
If we want "equal access to information," as we often claim we librarians do, then we need to do something about journal article pricing. I'd be quite willing to pay $2-$4 for an article, but the $30-$40 price range is ridiculous. I'm sure that these journal companies sell very few, if any, full-price articles. As we've seen with other media, when the price is right, it becomes as convenient to pay the price as it is to bother to pirate the materials (which in my case means borrowing someone's academic identity). Surely selling zero articles at $39.95 isn't better than selling a handful of articles at $2 each.
It's great that JSTOR is now offering some articles for free (although I have yet to be able to create an account since their site just hangs when I try), and I wouldn't suggest that JSTOR should be providing an entirely free service, since they have expenses. But $38 for an article is not just too much, it is prohibitive, and it unnecessarily creates an inequality of access. Someone needs to do to the journal publishers what Apple did to the music industry: show them the money.