|There may still be folks out there who only associate the name EBSCO
with magazine subscriptions for libraries. But EBSCO Subscription Services
is just one of two divisions within EBSCO Information Services (EIS; http://www.ebsco.com).
Tim Collins heads up the other division, EBSCO Publishing (http://www.epnet.com).
The two divisions work closely in serving the needs of libraries, and Collins
talked with me about their products, competitors, and markets. Collins
is also vice president of EBSCO Industries, Inc., the parent company. (By
the way, if you've ever wondered what EBSCO stands for, it's the Elton
B. Stephens Co., named for the founder and now chairman.)
Q Give us a capsule description of EBSCO Publishing's
A The mission is really shared between EBSCO Publishing
(EP) and EBSCO Subscription Services (ESS), given that we make up what
is known as EIS and given that we're both intermediaries between libraries and
publishers. The mission is to provide solutions for libraries that meet
their needs in the area of serials information. This includes provision
of access to secondary databases, full-text databases, as well as current
journal subscriptions, both in print format and online.
EP focuses on the secondary and full-text databases through our EBSCOhost
service, whereas ESS focuses on the services related to the purchase of
print and online journals, and EBSCO Online provides the access to online
journals. And, ESS now offers articles on a pay-per-view basis as well
as selling books through a new service.
What makes EBSCO unique is that we integrate the services so that a
user can look at an abstract from a licensed database, such as BIOSIS,
and link over to the full-text article in one of EBSCO Publishing's aggregated
databases, or to the article from one of the online journals that they
buy through ESS. The key to all that is the user doesn't know where the
full text came from—they just know that it's available and seamless. We
call that our "smart linking" technology, and it's central to our mission
of integrating our services. So, it's a shared mission but we each focus
on different aspects of it.
Q So, what are the differences between searching
on EBSCOhost and on EBSCO Online? On EBSCO Online, can someonesearch the
full text of journals, whether their library subscribes or not?
A Within EBSCO Online you can search the full text
of those journals that you subscribe to, but you can only access the abstracts
and headers of the journals that you don't subscribe to. EBSCO Online provides
current subscriptions, on a journal-by-journal basis. The average user
in an academic library, for example, would come to EBSCOhost and search
a full-text database directly, or for a subject-specific query, would use
a licensed database. Then they may link to an article available in a journal
via EBSCO Online.
Q So, libraries could have both services?
A Yes, most libraries do have both. It depends
on what the user wants. If the user wants to browse the most current issue,
then he'd go to EBSCO Online. The advantage of searching in a database
on EBSCOhost is to be able to use targeted indexing terminology and classifications,
such as class codes in EconLit.
Q I've seen differing figures on the number of
journals you have in full text. Is this a difference between the two services?
A There are about 4,000 journal titles available
in full text for sale on EBSCO Online. On EBSCOhost we offer aggregated
databases, which vary by market and subject, created from about 6,000 full-text
publications. Some publishers might work with both and choose to sell all
of their journal titles on EBSCO Online—but maybe license only half of
them to EP for inclusion in a database. Some publishers, such as academic
or scientific publishers, have chosen not to work with aggregators—but
they do work with subscription agencies. So, a lot of the additional content
that people hear about EBSCO getting is coming from academic publishers
who have worked with EBSCO Subscription Services as an agent for years
and are now starting to work with an aggregator. They are choosing to work
with EBSCO Publishing as an aggregator because EBSCO is their natural partner.
We've worked with them for years on the subscription side.
Q Besides adding new full-text journals, you seem
to have been quietly licensing new databases to add to EBSCOhost. Someone
might look now and say, How and when did they get so many? What are some
of your recent, largest suppliers of databases?
A We license from many of the large providers now—for
example, CINAHL, American Psychological Association, BIOSIS, EconLit, Cambridge
Scientific Abstracts, ERIC, e-psyche, and MEDLINE. We have six databases
from H.W. Wilson.
Q Hmmm. You are beginning to look like a Dialog.
Let's talk about your competitors.
A I think we look better, as we link over to our
aggregated full-text databases. We don't see Dialog as one of our main
competitors. On the full-text database side, we hear most about Bell &
Howell Information and Learning and Gale Group. On the licensed database
side, we hear most about the SilverPlatter and Ovid combo—actually news
of their services combining just came out.... [Editor's Note: For more
information, see the NewsBreak on page 1.] None of those organizations
offers the combination that we do of licensed databases and full-text databases.
We think we're kind of unique. And really, we don't spend much time focusing
on the competition. We just have ourheads down, listening to customers.
We continuously enhance our products based on what they tell us they'd
like to see.
Q I've heard someone in the industry—who shall
remain nameless—call EBSCO the "hungriest of the aggregators."
A We are indeed very committed and focused on growth
and improving ourselves, such that we offer the best products for serials
information solutions. If that makes us the hungriest, I'm proud to be
Q I've also heard about EBSCO signing exclusive
contracts with certain journals, specifically Harvard Business Review (HBR),
and about how much that particular deal cost EBSCO to get. I've also heard
that other exclusive contracts with publishers are being pursued by EBSCO.
Could you please clarify?
A We do have a close relationship with the Harvard
Business Review and we are actually expanding our products—and creating
new products—based on licensing additional content from them and other
publishers. We have been pleased to establish a number of relationships
in the past year with publishers that we have not worked with in the past.
Many of these publishers have never before worked with an aggregator, so
their content is unique to EBSCO's database. Many of these publishers see
EBSCO as their natural partner for aggregation, since EP is the sister
division to ESS, with which they've worked well for decades. They know
that EBSCO will explain to customers the difference between aggregated
full-text databases and online journals, and not do anything that will
negatively affect the publisher's core business, which is selling subscriptions—because
this is EBSCO's core business as well. I think it is from this trend that
the rumors started. HBR has chosen us as their preferred partner for the
academic market. As far as I know, this arrangement with them has not affected
any other arrangements they have for other markets.
Q Is HBR available to libraries as a single subscription
through EBSCO Online, or only as a full-text database on EBSCOhost?
A It is not available in this format via EBSCO
Online at this time.
Q Speaking from the users' perspective, we are
concerned about exclusive deals ultimately hurting the public's access
to titles. [HBR is no longer available in full text via Bell & Howell's
ProQuest service or from Gale Group. Archives of HBR articles dating back
to 1995 are available for sale on its own Web site, and selected articles
are now for sale on Amazon.com.—PJH]
A A library can subscribe to individual journals
directly from the publisher in print and often in online format. The addition
to EBSCO's databases of the many titles that were not previously available
in aggregated databases actually expands the access to the content from
Q I believe that the only non-library outlet for
EBSCO full-text titles is content that is licensed to Contentville. Can
you tell us about this arrangement?
A We've worked with Contentville and several of
our publisher partners to make articles available from selected titles
on a pay-per-view basis. So, it's a subset of what's available in our full-text
databases—probably a third of our content. It's still in the early stages,
but we've been pleased so far and usage is growing.
Q I understand that EBSCO is now including content
from free e-mail newsletters.
A Yes, this is through our full-text databases
available on EBSCOhost. We licensed a number of newsletters after hearing
that some of them were high quality and would benefit our users. And, we
are abstracting and indexing these titles. However, this is a very small
part of our content expansion, as the majority of the content is peer-reviewed
Q Let's talk about your markets. I've used your
service in public libraries and I know that academic libraries are a large
part of your business. I know that you have some corporate library clients
and you offer Corporate ResourceNet for intranets. What is your penetration
into the corporate library market where you are up against some large information
providers? And also, what about the K-12 education market? Is this of lesser
A We really don't focus on the corporate market,
although our content is quite relevant. We have a very strong business
database that is very successful in the academic market. But we don't have
a large sales organization for selling into the corporate market. We're
actually quite strong in the K-12 and public library markets. We have our
own direct sales and are pleased with our efforts.
Q Would you consider doing any partnering? Other
than with Contentville, it doesn't seem like you've done this much. With
companies like Hoover's, Northern Light, and some others, it seems like
I'm covering a new partnership or affiliate agreement about every other
A We're open to partnering. We've been very selective,
however, in our partnering. We want to make sure that any partnership we
enter makes sense for the partner, for us, for our publisher partners,
and for our library market, which is our main focus.
Q Recently we heard about Wolters Kluwer buying
SilverPlatter and planning to merge it with Ovid. We are seeing considerable
changes in the information industry landscape and many consolidations taking
place. What do you think about what's been happening?
A I think it will definitely continue. I think
you have to look at each deal individually. I think some of the acquisitions
really work well. I can say I'm very glad I sold to EBSCO. [Collins' original
company, which published Popular Magazine Review, was purchased in 1987.—PJH]
Many acquisitions result in changes of management teams, and luckily EBSCO
doesn't have that philosophy.
Q With your corporate parent, EBSCO Industries
(http://www.ebscoind.com), encompassing more than 20 businesses, including
real estate, steel manufacturing, and fishing lures, it may be diversified
enough to weather any current economic turmoil. Since it's a privately
held company, it's hard to know how the company is doing. Is it doing well
and would it ever go public?
A I've worked for EBSCO for 14 years and I continue
to be very impressed by the company and its top management. EBSCO is doing
fine. I'm not in a position to comment about going public, but we've never
had an issue with funding for our growth. EBSCO Publishing has been growing
nicely and is positive about the future. Last year we grew just under 30
percent in overall sales.
Q What are your plans for EBSCO Publishing over
the next year or two?
A The plan for the next 2 years is to continue
doing what we're doing and add additional full-text and licensed databases,
and to improve our services, linking the two together. We don't have a
lot of partnerships to manage, so we'll just continue to listen to customers
and move forward. It may not be exciting, but it is effective.
Q Actually, partnerships are at the heart of what
you are doing, because of your partnerships with publishers.
A Yes, we are an intermediary between publishers
and libraries, and are really partners with each. We keep within that framework
and do few partnerships outside that. It's a simple business but it's fundamentally
sound. We feel it's a business that has long-term stability and growth
Paula J. Hane, co-editor with Barbara Quint for NewsBreaks, is contributing
editor of Information Today, a former reference librarian, and a
longtime online searcher. Her e-mail address is phane@