Category Archives: Interfaces/Platforms

A Visit to Encyclopaedia Britannica

Monday, August 11th I stopped by the Encyclopaedia Britannica offices on LaSalle street in Chicago.  I visited Michael Ross, Senior VP of Corporate Development.  Michael gave me a nice tour of the Britannica headquarters and I took some photos to share with everyone.  You’ll see some remarkable similarities between an international publisher and a library.

britannica-001.jpg They have bookshelves AND servers.

britannica-002.jpg 60+ servers in 3 locations as a matter of fact.

britannica-004.jpg No, this isn’t spaghetti, it’s Britannica ONLINE!!  Don’t cut the pink one….

britannica-011.jpg Despite the thousands of wires to support Britannica online, they still have a print library collection.

britannica-009.jpg And they use white boards to sketch out future plans.

britannica-005.jpg I even got a sneak peek at the cover art for the 2009 Almanac!

britannica-010.jpg And they dress business casual, just like me!

Seriously now, Britannica has a really cool feature coming to all of their online products sometime this fall.  Right now it is called “project darwin” but it will take on a new name online.  This new feature will bring web 2.0 features to Britannica online including user comment/feedback areas.    Some other facts about Britannica:

Over one million visitors use Britannica online every day.

Britannica offers multiple interfaces for their products (they manage over 30) – public (free, with annoy wear) , individual membership, institutional/libraries, and multiple foreign language interfaces including Japanese, Chinese, Korean, French, and 2 in Spanish.

They offer thousands of videos too.

Britannica Blog offers daily posts on thousands of topics, by hundreds of writers – many well known.

For more information, check out Britannica Online here:  www.britannica.com

And thanks, Michael, for the tour!

The Evolution of the Reference EBook

At ALA Annual in Anaheim ABC-CLIO hosted focus groups for academic reference librarians to discuss the changing face of electronic reference books and hear what they had to say about what they hoped to see for the future of these products.

Here are the items we discussed and the general feedback we received. We encourage all readers of the No Shelf Required blog to post comments or questions – we want to hear what you have to say too!

Is print reference still viable?
It was generally agreed that print reference is still viable. Whether or not the librarian would purchase the print version depended upon the subject of the title and if their budget prohibited purchasing the electronic version. However, nearly half of the 20 attendees said they are no longer buying print reference at all.

What comes first, the book or the eBook?
As stated above, most answered that they would purchase the eBook and not the print, so the question for them was moot. Others stated that they would be inclined to purchase an eBook version of a title prior to the release of a completed print version if subsquent updates were provided and the final print version would be available within 12 – 24 months.  The original release of the eBook version would have less content than the print, but both versions would be identical by the time of print publication.

Important Features

  • Unlimited simultaneous usage & remote access
  • Export to citation programs
  • NO plug-ins
  • Open to Google and federated searching – access to all eBook platforms through one search engine

Ordering

  • Make ordering easier by offering eBooks via the usual print distributors

Purchase vs. Subscribe
Continue reading

International Children’s Digital Library – New Enhancements

International Children’s Digital Library Unveils Breakthrough Enhancements

From PRWeb

Unique Technology Significantly Improves Translation, Readability

Boston, MA (PRWEB) June 17, 2008 — The International Children’s Digital Library (ICDL) Foundation (www.childrenslibrary.org), which is the world’s largest collection of children’s literature available freely on the Internet, today announced the completion and implementation of its ClearText technology which significantly enhances the translation and readability of the books available from the online library.

For easier reading of scanned books on a small screen, ClearText allows the user to simply click the desired text to display a magnified version of that text in place, or to read that page in a different language, the user just selects the desired language from a list under the page. The novel book reader technology was developed in-house at ICDL by Dr. Ben Bederson, library co-founder and Chief Technology Officer, working closely with a team from the Human-Computer Interaction Lab at the University of Maryland.

We are constantly working to expand the library and increase its relevance worldwide

For the translation feature, children reading at the ICDL can select the language of their choice at the bottom of each page. As for readability, the text provided by the ClearText technology is sharper than before and will “pop out” to enlarge as needed. Text can even be read with a screen reader to support visually impaired readers. The book reader allows users to see a different version of the text in place and enables the text size to be changed or read aloud using a standard screen reader. It works by visually removing the text from the original image of the book, and then using the Web browser to display the text on top of the image of the book.

Additionally, the ClearText technology allows for users of the library to have increased options in selecting a language in which to read a book. For example, thanks to ClearText, Croatian author Andrea Petrlik’s moving book The Blue Sky is currently available in three languages. In addition to the technology improvements, a massive translation project is currently underway, being conducted by more than 1,200 online volunteer translators. Once a book is translated, there is a second review to validate the translation and ensure accuracy.

“We are constantly working to expand the library and increase its relevance worldwide,” said Executive Director of the International Children’s Digital Library, Tim Browne. “The ClearText application was developed specifically for the ICDL and makes it possible for more children from more countries to enjoy more books. We are delighted to unveil what we view as our most significant advancement to date.”

eBooks – Wouldn’t One Platform Be Nice?

If you’ve ever heard me give a presentation about eBooks, then you’ve probably heard my soap box rant about the plethora of eBook platforms.  I can’t stand it.  I look forward to the day when all of my e-content – reference, monographs, textbooks, whatever – will be on one consistent platform, fully searchable by keyword and every other possible facet.  With ALA Annual coming up in June, I am asking all of you who feel the same to please remind the publishers that we want one platform for our electronic content.  I know I’m not alone here.  I’ve just heard some rumors from a publisher that librarians in Japan asked for the exact same thing – one central platform!

Here’s an excerpt from my Nov. 1, 2008 article in Reference Books Bulletin about eBook platforms:

Make access a priority. The best way to drive business to e-reference is through the online catalog. Make sure all MARC records are in the catalog with persistent links to the e-books. Strive to use as few interfaces as possible. Our comparison chart lists 6 vendors, each with a unique interface and special features; how can we make things simpler? Purchase titles to own, and get the licensing agreement to provide a copy of the e-book in either the HTML, XML, or PDF version.   With this data, libraries can mount all e-book content on 1 platform, like Ebrary, or an open-source product, like XTF. Or purchase from vendors that support multiple publishers in one platform—Gale Virtual Reference Library is a good example. Another good option for access is through Paratext’s Reference Universe, which indexes the table of contents, entries, and thousands of print and electronic titles. It’s a deeper search than the catalog, uses one interface, and has persistent links to the article level of e-books and to the catalog record of print titles. When shopping around, talk to publishers about access, and remind them that fewer interfaces make for simple searching by users and librarians.

Interview with Rolf Janke, Publisher, SAGE Reference

Each month, noshelfrequired will feature an audio interview with an Ebook publisher, aggregator, or distributor. Interviews will be about 10 – 15 minutes in length.  The first interview is with Rolf Janke, Vice President and Publisher, SAGE Reference.

It is best to save the file on your computer first, then listen.

April 2008 – Rolf Janke, VP/Publisher, Sage Reference

Reference Universe – Paratext

Reference Universe.
Nov. 2003.
Paratext
REVIEW. First published November 1, 2003 (Booklist).

Reference Universe
Here is a database that librarians will really appreciate. We have spent countless hours selecting, storing, and carefully weeding our reference collections. But patrons would rather search on the Internet, and get any old answer, than use our pride and joy, our reference collections. Reference Universe has taken article titles and indexes from more than 2,000 reference works “from both major and minor reference publishers.” These entries have been compiled into a user-friendly database that covers topics from a wide variety of disciplines. It is searchable by singular or plural forms, word variants, exact phrase, or exact words. It also includes searches by all of the words and any of the words. Searches can be limited by publication date and by number of hits (the default being 1,000). A Browse Mode allows users to browse for books by publisher, title of work, subject, or Library of Congress classification number or to browse the Reference Universe index of terms.
After searching, the system presents a list of reference titles in relevancy-ranked order. Besides the title, the brief display includes publisher and date and the total number of index entries or article titles containing the term. There are also links to the local catalog, a full-text e-book version if it is available, article titles and index terms, and a fuller bibliographic record. The full record in turn links to other reference books on the subject, other reference books by the author, the record in MARC format, and a review from ARBA Online, available to subscribing libraries. A notes field generally contains brief bibliographic information. As of this writing, Paratext plans to add reviews and publisher links and has installed a prototype that will automatically indicate whether a library owns a title that appears in a list of results.
Do you remember First Stop: The Master Index to Subject Encyclopedias, published by Oryx Press in 1989? Reference Universe has a similar idea but with a modern interface. Titles indexed seem to have good recency, and keeping the electronic version up-to-date will be easier than updating a printed version. General searches will produce many hits. It may take discernment to determine which subject encyclopedia is best for a particular query, but because this is a librarian’s tool, finding the best references for a patron shouldn’t be a problem.
This metaindex is an exciting product that will get a lot of use at reference desks in both public and academic libraries and also has uses as a collection development tool. Highly recommended.— Jack O’Gorman

XReferplus – Credo Reference

Xreferplus – (Credo Reference)
First published November 1, 2006 (Booklist).

Xreferplus is an online reference service with more than 2 million entries from more than 207 reference titles. With a focus on ready-reference content, Xreferplus includes subject-specific dictionaries, biographical data, statistics, quotations, and audio and image files from more than 50 publishers. There are two subscription options, Xreferplus 100 and Xreferplus Unlimited. The former allows libraries to select 100 titles from the collection and drop or add titles as needed. The latter is the entire collection, which, beginning in 2007, will grow by 300 titles per year. Available as optional add-ons to either collection are specialist reference titles such as Blackwell Psychology Handbooks. Xreferplus can also be accessed through the Gale Virtual Reference Library.
What makes Xreferplus unique is the cross-referencing—or Xreferences—across titles, disciplines, and publishers. Added to that are the data-visualization search capabilities of the Xrefer Concept Map (which is like brainstorming on steroids), 180,000 pronunciation audio files, thousands of images, dynamic table functionality, a chronology builder, and an interactive world atlas for an “Xtreme” ready-reference experience.
Xrefer’s newest feature, the Chronology Builder, is currently available in one title (The Marcquarie Encyclopedia of Australian Events), but other titles will be on board in three to six months. This feature uses the major subjects of the title to highlight noteworthy events in chronological order. Users may add or remove columns and compare the chronology of various subjects, for example, correlating population growth to recessions and booms. The dynamic table functionality is currently available in three titles (Census, World Factbook, and UN Stats). Again, users may use this tool to create, customize, and sort data within each title. The library administration system allows customization with library logos and links, provides usage statistics, and offers promotional and educational materials. Xreferplus is available as a subscription database with a cost of $2,425 for the 100 package and $3,638 for the unlimited package. Specialist Reference titles are priced separately and may be added to either package. – Sue Polanka

Oxford Reference Online

Oxford Reference Online
First published November 1, 2006 (Booklist).

Oxford Reference Online (ORO), a scholarly reference database, contains more than 100 quick-reference titles in nearly every field. Two collections are available, the core collection, containing the more than 113 quick-reference titles, and the premium collection, containing the former plus in-depth entries from the Oxford Companion series, the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, illustrations, maps, tables, time lines, bibliographies, and external Web links. Users can search or browse ORO on three levels: the entire collection, a subject area (e.g., economics, history), or a single reference title. Quick and advanced search are available along with several browsing options. Quick search searches for matches in entry headings first. If none are available, ORO’s intelligent search feature widens the search to full text and finally to pattern and stem searching (various spellings and word prefixes and suffixes). The Widen Search feature may be user initiated on the results pages. Advanced searches allow search limits to full text, entry headings, people, and dates. Limits to a specific subject area and type of search (standard, Boolean, or pattern) are also included. Individual entries include full text and illustrations if available, links to see also references within the title, browse next and previous entries, an e-mail option, and the entry citation in modified MLA format. Options for printing, exporting, or selecting the style format are not yet available. Once users begin to navigate away from the results page, it is difficult to get back. A cross-referencing tool allows users to highlight a word in the full text and locate this word in other ORO titles. Oxford is currently working to add more cross-book-linking features.
Several special features are found in the Premium Collection: a time line of twentieth-century events with links to individual entries; political, physical, or locator maps from around the world; external Web links at the subject or book level; and illustrations from visual dictionaries. A downloadable browser search box provides easy access to the collection. ORO is a subscription collection; titles are not owned by the library. Pricing is $2,900 for the Premium Collection and $2,275 for the Core Collection. Concurrent user pricing is also an option. Add-on collections for Western Civilization and Literature are available for additional fees. Libraries that wish to own content should investigate Oxford’s Digital Reference Shelf product. – Sue Polanka

Greenwood Digital Collection

Greenwood Digital Collection
Review. First published November 1, 2006 (Booklist).

The Greenwood Digital Collection includes more than 3,500 titles from Greenwood, Praeger, and Libraries Unlimited—encyclopedias, biographies, dictionaries, and primary documents. About 25 percent of the titles are reference and cover a variety of topics and fields in more than 24 subject areas. Users can browse the collection by title, subject, or author or perform a quick or advanced search of the entire collection, subject area, or an individual title. The quick search feature,available on nearly every page, performs a phrase search on the full text in the title or the entire collection. A user-initiated Boolean search is also acceptable. The advanced search offers two options. The standard search, with drop-down menus, will search by keyword, author, title, and LC or Dewey classification number using the AND, OR, and NOT operators. The Boolean search offers a free-form Boolean search by keyword, title, or author and access to eight operators. Both offer limits by subject and date, with options to sort results. Results, ranked by the number of hits, highlight search terms within the text and may be sorted by date, author, or title.
Individual full-text entries are in html format as they would appear on a page in the printed book.At this level, the table of contents of the book and options to move or jump to corresponding pages in the book appear. Tables and charts, also in html, retain proper tabs and columns. Users also have options for customizing the font family and size for easier reading, accessing the citation (in MLA format) for the page they are using, and printing clean copies of the text. Up to 20 pages may be printed at one time. Currently, e-mail and mark, store, and download options are not available. Greenwood offers two unique features, My Bookshelf and My Bookmarks and Notes, each of which requires a user-initiated account. The former saves titles to a personal bookshelf for use later. The latter option allows users to bookmark a particular page and add annotations up to 1,000 characters. Greenwood is quite flexible with pricing models and offers permanent or annual pricing. Libraries that wish to own content may purchase titles individually or as packages. Prices are generally 10 percent above the print list price regardless of institution size. There is also a $200 annual access fee per institution. – Sue Polanka

Gale Virtual Reference Library

Gale Virtual Reference Library
Review. First published November 1, 2006 (Booklist).

Gale Virtual Reference Library (GVRL) contains more than 700 reference titles from more than 25 publishers, including Gale, Wiley, Sage, and Cambridge, and focuses on multivolume encyclopedias from a variety of fields. Purchased title by title, GVRL can be customized to fit any library. GVRL runs on the PowerSearch interface, which is clean and structured with many special features. Content is easy to navigate with browse, basic, and advanced searches. Users may select from three basic search options—keyword (default), document title, or full text. Keyword searches the title, introductory text, authors, and first 50 words of an article. GVRL’s advanced search offers several field-search types (document title, image caption, publication title, ISBN, author, start page, document number); limits by date, publication title, subject area, audience type, and documents with images; and search-history access—a feature unique to GVRL. Limits are only available on the advanced search screen. Results are ranked by relevance and may be sorted by document or publication title.
Several features stand out in GVRL. Articles are delivered in html (showing actual page breaks) with links to pdf versions. Users may mark, store, and export items for print, e-mail, or download. Multiple citation formats are included—APA, MLA, and plain text with direct exports to EndNote, Procite, RefWorks, and Reference Manager. Articles can be translated into eight languages (but be careful: translation is not exact but rather employs a gisting software). The InfoMark tool allows the user to obtain persistent links to books or articles with options to bookmark or e-mail. E-books include all front and back matter with hyperlinked tables of content and indexes. The Subcollection Manager Tool allows libraries to create small subject collections within GVRL that can be linked to courses or subjects on the library Web site and searched separately from other GVRL content. Many articles include a find-similar-articles option, which utilizes e-book indexes. Libraries may use the customization options to include messages, logos, and links to library services and to track usage. Users may set preferences of font, colors, language, and number of results per page during their sessions. The cost of individual titles is 10 percent above the print cost. Annual hosting fees range from $50 to $300 depending on the number of titles owned. – Sue Polanka