Here’s a new spin on eBook publishing and business models. Berkshire Publishing offers FREE searching/browsing of reference titles before purchase. Libraries and/or end users can subscribe to the content, directly from the site for an annual fee. Example: Pricing for their new title, Global Perspectives of the United States, is $49.00 annually. The print list price is $275.00. If you only wanted to own titles for a couple of years, this might be a more economical way to purchase.
What is an e-book?
How is it different than a book, web site or database?
Are there any differences between reference, monographs, or textbooks in e format?
One question asked by many librarians, now that I’m purchasing my reference titles electronically, should publishers be updating those titles and fixing errors prior to (or rather than) releasing a new edition?
How does this impact the print copy? Which copy is the official copy, print or electronic?
Should the eBook title be an exact replica of the print title? Are eBooks meant to be “living” and growing things? If so, how do we archive the older material?
How does this impact pricing? Should subscription based models include updates automatically? What about titles purchased to own (a one time fee)?
What are your thoughts?
REVIEW. First published November 1, 2003 (Booklist).
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)
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
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
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
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
History Reference Online
First published November 1, 2006 (Booklist).
ABC-CLIO’s History Reference Online (HRO) collection contains more than 340 encyclopedias, handbooks, dictionaries, and guides focusing on U.S. and world history, current issues, politics, and geography. A large number of the titles are multivolume encyclopedias, and 85 percent were published from 2000 to the present. What makes HRO attractive is its simplicity. The home page offers one simple search box with options to search the full text, author, or title fields and a list of subjects in which to browse the collection. The default search is AND, allowing for other Boolean logic searches. Another attractive feature in HRO is the way in which results are ranked and displayed. Results are grouped by book title and sorted within the title for relevancy. For example, a search on civil war results in 80 book titles, each with multiple entries. Many of these titles are about the American Civil War; however, several for Korea and the Persian Gulf appear. A researcher with a focus on the American Civil War can easily weed out the titles and multiple entries that do not pertain to his or her research.
Once an entry is selected, users can view full text and have easy navigation through the rest of the book via the table of contentsand forward-back page options. A searchable dictionary is also available. Citations, at the entry level, are available in American Psychological Association (APA), Chicago Manual of Style, Harvard, and Modern Language Association (MLA) styles. A new window is opened for each book title that one uses. These windows remain open during a session for easy navigation between titles. Depending on the type of research someone is doing, this feature can be advantageous or not, as multiple open windows can be confusing. HRO does not offer options for library customization, nor are there store, mark, export, or e-mail options. The four-year-college annual subscription price is $9,000 for more than 5,000 FTE and $8,000 for less. Community-college pricing is $7,000 and $6,000, respectively.
Written by: Sue Polanka
REVIEW. First published November 1, 2007 (Booklist).
Sage eReference is a small but growing reference collection. Currently, it contains more than 50 Sage titles (multivolume social-science subject encyclopedias, published since 2002), with 62 on target for year’s end. Among the currently available titles are Encyclopedia of Crime and Punishment (2002), Encyclopedia of World Poverty (2006), and Encyclopedia of American Urban History (2007). The collection is designed using the same principles as other e-book interfaces, with browse and keyword search options. Users can browse by title or within 20 subjects, such as African American Studies or Health and Social Welfare. In Advanced Search, searching can be done within a title, across the entire collection to which a library subscribes, or in titles selected by the user. Advanced Search also includes Boolean options and limits to articles with sidebars, images, or tables. Searches can be limited to content types, such as articles, further reading, contributor lists, or introductions, although some content (all front and back matter) is available only in PDF format.
To meet the needs of students, who consistently say “Where am I?” while searching, Sage has designed its interface with several visual cues, including a unique top banner for each reference-book title. This banner, a montage of the book cover design, is present on every page and changes according to the title being viewed. It is visually pleasing, stylish, and useful for reminding users where they are. Each encyclopedia’s home page also includes a summary of the encyclopedia, Browse and Advanced Search tabs for searching within the encyclopedia, and links to front and back matter. Unfortunately, it’s easy to get trapped searching one reference title, since links back to the main search page are unclear.
Another distinctive aspect of Sage eReference is the Reader’s Guide, a feature found in all Sage print encyclopedias and a dynamic navigation tool online. Each guide contains about 15 key themes and offers multiple subtopics, a good way to guide users to topics they may not have thought to search.
Search results are displayed 10 items per page by relevance; the sort order can be changed to title A–Z or Z–A. Articles display with any images and sidebars and links to related entries and further readings. Each title’s index, table of contents, further readings, and see also references are hyperlinked for easy navigation; however, the text within entries is not. Basic printing and e-mailing options are available, but results cannot be stored or exported. The default MLA-style citation format can be changed to APA or Chicago style. Font and word spacing are rather large, and although this means there is less information per page, it is easier to read. There are no options for library customization.
Sage eReference titles are also available in Gale Virtual Reference Library, but those with access via GVRL will need to purchase again with Sage due to licensing and access issues. Why buy again? According to Rolf Janke, vice president and publisher of Sage, “In the future we hope to see a seamless integration of all Sage content (journals, books, reference, handbooks) in one electronic platform.” For a typical academic library with 5,000 FTE, Sage charges 125 percent of the print title, and titles are purchased to own. Access fees are waived for the first 5 years and after that are nominal but based on titles owned. (Last accessed September 6, 2007.) — Sue Polanka