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Magazine Article Index Database

Medline's Inspiration

When U.S. Vice President Al Gore inaugurated free public access to Medline at a press conference in Congress on June 26, 1997, he did two good things to us in Japan. The first is, of course, to enable us to freely access to this world's biggest medical database, with more than 9 million citations from 3,900 biomedical magazines in 70 countries. That makes a great difference, sometimes with life-or-death significance.

The second good thing the free Medline access gave us, is an inspiration: "we could do the same in Japan!" Medline is built by National Library of Medicine, a U.S. federal institution. In Japan, we have National Diet (Parliament) Library (NDL), which builds a Magazine Article Index (MAI) database. The database includes more than 800,000 citations from 5,500 Japanese magazines.

Currently NDL sells the CD-ROM version of MAI (1990-current) for 180,000 yen, the magnetic tape version for 800,000 yen. There is no Internet free access to the database. Three private database services offer access to MAI with charges. If you access to Nichigai Associates' MAI database  via PC-VAN (NEC's commercial online service)  for example, you pay 10 yen per hit list and 30 yen for each citation display, beside PC-VAN charges (as of May 1999).

In most other countries, private database venders create magazine article databases. Unique about the situation in Japan is that the database is produced by NDL, a public (parliamentary) institution. The Japanese public is in a position to be able to demand public access to a periodical index database. Imagine. What if every citizen can freely access to a database where s/he can find most articles written in your culture? At least those written in major 5,500 periodicals?  How does such framework affect a culture?

Created by Tax Money, Sold by Private Companies

All publishers in Japan are required by law to submit copies of their publications, books and periodicals, to the NDL. Using these collections, the NDL produces various bibliographical indexes. The NDL currently collects about 50,000 titles, among which about 5,600 are indexed in their Magazine Article Index (MAI). The NDL is continuously expanding the number of the magazines to be indexed. The MAI has citations only, no abstracts. Most of the information is in Japanese.

The MAI used to be published monthly (as well as in the 5-year cumulative form) in print. In 1996, the NDL stopped printing it to publish only in CD-ROM and other digital formats. Kinokuniya Bookstore, a Tokyo-based major private bookstore-publisher, distributes these electronic products. Kinokuniya's brochure lists the following MAI products.

Magazine Article Index (Zasshi Kiji Sakuin), Current (1990-)
800,000 articles from 5,500 magazines since January 1990
Updated quarterly
Annual Usage Price:   180,000 yen ($1=130yen as of May 1998)
Annual Network-Installed Price:
 up to 5 terminals:   360,000 yen
      10 terminals:   540,000
      20 terminals: 1,050,000
more than 21 trmls: 2,000,000

Magazine Article Index (Zasshi Kiji Sakuin), Cumulative (1985-1989)
520,000 articles from 3,000 magazines
Updated quarterly
One-time Annual Usage Price: 180,000 yen
One-time Network-Installed Price:
 up to 5 terminals       360,000 yen
        10 terminals:    540,000
        20 terminals:  1,050,000
more than 21 trmls:    2,000,000

Magnetic Tapes:
Magazine Article Index (Zasshi Kiji Sakuin), MT
Includes current version MT (updated 24 times a year) and yearly version MT (since 1985)
Usage Prices:
 Current MT  600,000 yen annually
 Yearly MT   480,000 yen/year
Online Usage Prices:
 Nonprofit Organization: 600,000 yen/year
 Profit Organization:  1,200,000 yen/year

Universities and corporations buy these MAI products to make them accessible through their local area networks. To the the general public, three private database services (Nikkei Telecom, G Search, and Nichigai Associates) provide online access, with charges.  The public can also ask librarians to make MAI database searches for them (without charges) at major public libraries such as the 48 prefectural main libraries throughout Japan.

Some civic Groups are working for public access to the government databases. One of the most active is Forum on Environmental Administration Reform (FEAR), an environmental policy advocate group organized by environmental professionals, policy makers, journalists and civic activists. Working with supportive Diet members in early 1998, they pressed the NDL successfully to make its Diet Meeting Minute (equivalent of U.S.'s Congressional Record) databse available on the Internet.. The FEAR has a content-rich discussion list (mostly in Japanese) to work on environment, information disclosure and other administrative reform issues. To join, contact Teiichi Aoyama at