Information Today
Volume 18, Issue 9 — October 2001
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IT NewsBreak Feature •
ebrary Announces Partnership with McGraw-Hill Primis Custom Publishing
by Paula J. Hane

Warnock and ebrary to Take Slow, Steady Approach

We're all aware of the demise of many dot-coms and other companies over the last year or so, and the declining ad sales and revenue difficulties that most every business is experiencing. My current theory is that the companies that survive the current tumultuous market conditions will be those with a clear understanding of their markets, a solid business plan, good industry connections and alliances, and some solid financial banking—not to mention a bit of luck.

ebrary CEO Christopher Warnock stresses that what he feels will keep ebrary in business is its "slow and steady approach." He said the company is still in "study mode," analyzing market conditions, learning from other companies' problems and mistakes, and testing the waters with some cautious strategies. He sees the company as a pioneer in the area of secure online delivery of copyrighted content. He quoted his father (John Warnock, chairman and co-founder of Adobe Systems) in noting that you can always tell the pioneers by the number of arrows in their backs. He acknowledged that the company has experienced some pain from those arrows, but that it's still very adaptive and has several business models that will pull it through.

Although ebrary is creating an online library of e-book content, it doesn't consider itself an e-book company. Warnock says ebrary is often compared to netLibrary and Questia, but notes that the three have very different business models with a different focus for each. Questia sells subscriptions to individuals for access to e-books, while netLibrary sells e-books to libraries. The use of ebrary content is more like the photocopy model—users pay to print or save, but viewing is free. In addition, users can choose to purchase just the specific information needed—a page or section—instead of the entire book. Warnock feels the ebrary approach, providing a software and content solution with monetization for its publishing partners, offers a broader model.

ebrary has still not officially launched its own destination site, For a while, it looked like building the site was its focus and that it was just delayed. Then the company announced its ebrarian solution and its strategy of working with channel partners. Warnock said that this was according to plan. He noted that the planned destination site was originally intended to showcase the company's proof of concept.

Earlier this year ebrary announced its first public beta version of ebrarian with the Learning Network, a Pearson company, one of ebrary's investors. The co-branded site is available at The site currently offers access to business and economic content, but Warnock said the company plans to expand the titles offered and hopes to broaden coverage to other subjects. The special site has not yet been broadly integrated within the Learning Network. At this point, while still in beta, there's only a search box ad on, one of the sites of the network. Content from 13 publishers is included in the beta, but ebrary is actually working with over 75 publishers in developing electronic content.

While they aren't yet mentioning names, I suspect we will soon be hearing of additional partnerships for ebrary, especially in the education and e-learning markets. The ebrarian solution can be marketed to a diverse group of channel partners, including Web sites, search engines, portals, organizations, publishers, and libraries. Partners can tap new online markets and increase revenues by making their own content securely available online, accessing relevant content from ebrary's collection, or combining content from both.—PJH

ebrary has announced that McGraw-Hill Primis Custom Publishing, a unit of the McGraw-Hill Companies' McGraw-Hill Education Division, is adopting ebrary's ebrarian solution for Primis Online, its online service that allows faculty members to create customized e-book adaptations from existing textbooks. Students will then be able to access these customized course materials from a co-branded Web site hosted by ebrary, or download their custom e-books directly from the Primis Online site (

Primis Online offers over 450 McGraw-Hill titles that can be customized in print or digital e-book formats. The service also includes content from a number of business case providers, such as Harvard. Until now, the Primis service only supplied secure Adobe PDF downloads locked to individual PCs. The online viewing and downloading will offer students much more flexibility.

Primis will use ebrarian to securely deliver its course packs to students. ebrary InfoTools will be customized by Primis Online to allow students to select any word or phrase in their course packs and link to additional course-related information. Primis Online will also leverage the ebrarian solution to give students and professors access to the ebrary collection of copyright-protected content from leading publishers.

Christopher Warnock, ebrary's CEO, saidthat ebrary would provide a richer online experience for the end-user with the provision of InfoTools, a 500-KB downloadable plug-in. InfoTools provides for faster online viewing and aids in reading comprehension and information cross-referencing.Warnock said the Primis service with ebrarian was scheduled to go live in the first quarter of next year.

"Our partnership with ebrary will enable students to access their course materials online from any computer at any time and avoid lengthy download times. Professors can enhance their Primis Online e-books with word-level content interaction and can also supplement course materials with the ebrary collection of authoritative books and other documents—most of whichhave never before been available on the Web," said Ginny Moffat, vice president and head of McGraw-Hill Primis Custom Publishing. "Needless to say, ebrary also provides great value to students, who have access to the information and tools they need to increase knowledge and comprehension. The ebrarian solution offers us many advantages."

"Studies show that providing compelling, interactive content increases retention and is critical to the success of e-learning programs," said Warnock. "We're extremely proud that Primis Online, the standard for educational custom publishing, has chosen our ebrarian solution as the platform for theire-book courseware. Not only will this agreement benefit Primis Online customers by providing superior learning resources, it will enable the company to further gain a competitive edge by making interactive content a reality."

ebrary develops software and services for the secure online access and delivery of copyrighted content. ebrary has created the ebrarian solution for customers and partners and is working with publishers and other content providers to create online libraries of content. ebrary is also building its destination site, but, according to Warnock, is currently focusing on working with channel partners. [See sidebar at right.] ebrary is privately held and is funded by Random House Ventures, LLC, Pearson, PLC, and The McGraw-Hill Co. For more information, visit

McGraw-Hill Education ( is an acknowledged leader in educational materials and professional information, and publishes in all media, including print, CD-ROM, and the Web. Those of you who have not heard of Primis Custom Publishing might be surprised to learn that the service has been around for quite some time, predating the Web. According to information on its site, the following are some interesting McGraw-Hill Education firsts:

  • 1982—First interactive software program integrated with a textbook, McGraw-Hill Mathematics

  • 1989—First digital custom textbook, Primis

  • 1998—First online browser-based multimedia textbook, Norton Introduction to Computers
Founded in 1888, The McGraw-Hill Companies is a global information services provider that meets the needs of the financial services, education, and business information markets through brands such as Standard & Poor's, BusinessWeek, and McGraw-Hill Education. The corporation has more than 300 offices in 33 countries. Sales in 2000 were $4.3 billion. Additional information is available at

Paula J. Hane is editor of NewsBreaks, contributing editor of Information Today, a former reference librarian, and a longtime online searcher. Her e-mail address is

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