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Magazines > Information Today > January 2004
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Information Today
Vol. 21 No. 1 — January 2004
NewsBreak Update
The Latest Developments in Open Access, E-Books, and More
By Paula Hane

The big news for us at Information Today, Inc. is our Live from London blog, which provided coverage of the Online Information 2003 conference Dec. 2—4 and was ITI's first foray into the Web log publishing environment.

Our determined group of ITI editors—Dick Kaser, Marydee Ojala, and John Eichorn—raced around the exhibit hall and various conference-related events to report the news, commentary, and buzz. They were our eyes (Kaser was armed with his digital camera) and ears, giving us wonderful nuggets, such as the photo of sunrise over the Olympia conference center, the best giveaway at the show, a virtual tour of the booths, and highlights of keynote presentations. (There are even rare photos of Dialog founder Roger Summit, minus his beard, and Mary Ellen Bates, minus her ponytail.) If you haven't seen the blog, it's still accessible at

Because of Online Information, it was a busy several weeks for news, despite the lull during the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S. A number of vendors chose the event to make product announcements, including enhancements to the INSPEC database (see, the new Dialog Application Programming Interface, and the new STN Express with Discover! Analysis Edition (version 7.0).

At a reception in the exhibit hall, the American Institute of Physics (AIP) Publishing Services announced that its Online Journal Publishing Services hosting platform will change its name to Scitation. AIP also announced a new partnership with the Institution of Electrical Engineers that will provide Scitation Alerts powered by INSPEC.

According to an AIP press release, CEO Marc Brodsky noted that the name Scitation "conveys three important messages. First, it stresses the platform's strength in science and engineering. Second, it reinforces AIP's leadership in citation reference linking, both forward and backward. Finally, it signals the breadth and timeliness of online products and services that we develop and host beyond journals."

Barbara Quint pointed out how the name Scitation sounds similar to ISI's Science Citation Index and noted Brodsky's competitive comment about "leadership" in citation reference linking. While ISI has clearly led the way in citation linking over the years, this is functionality that we will increasingly see implemented within electronic journal environments.

Linking Update

Linking is certainly a hot area of development in the industry, as I've covered frequently in this column. Responding to user expectations, most vendors are rapidly expanding their cooperative agreements to provide transparent navigation capabilities between services. ProQuest Information and Learning has recently announced a series of such partnerships.

ProQuest will link abstract and index records from its online databases with the full text of Project MUSE's journals. Project MUSE is a collection of 220 peer-reviewed scholarly journals from 36 humanities and social sciences publishers. It's managed by The Johns Hopkins University Press in cooperation with the Milton S. Eisenhower Library.

ProQuest supports OpenURL linking for both inbound and outbound links and enables support even for link targets that are not yet OpenURL-compliant. The company also announced that it's now offering PubMed LinkOut capabilities in ProQuest Medical Library. PubMed LinkOut will allow PubMed users to have direct access to more than 330 full-text titles in the ProQuest Medical Library database. Customers with valid IP-based access to the ProQuest service can take advantage of seamless navigation between the PubMed record and the corresponding full-text article hosted on the ProQuest platform.

Most recently, ProQuest and CSA announced that customers of both services can link from CSA research abstracts to the full text of the journals in ProQuest online databases. ProQuest has established linking agreements with providers such as JSTOR, Swets, Ingenta, and OCLC. ProQuest supports linking via CrossRef, which enables access to content from more than 200 publishers. In addition, ProQuest facilitates linking with all major link resolvers and journal-list service providers, such as Serials Solutions (Article Linker, Journal Linker), ExLibris (SFX), Endeavor (LinkFinderPlus), Innovative Interfaces (WebBridge), and TDNet. It also links with document retrieval services such as Infotrieve and CISTI.

In other news, ProQuest signed an agreement with The New England Journal of Medicine to distribute the full text of the journal in several ProQuest databases. Backfile rights dating to 1996 are included. Content in XanEdu Course Packs will be current with the print edition. Other databases will be embargoed for 90 days.

Scholarly Journals, Elsevier

This past fall, academic serials librarians struggled with their journal-purchase and -renewal decisions. For some, the RoweCom failure had been just one more blow during tough economic times. As rising journal costs and severely strained library budgets were putting on the squeeze, librarians—as well as faculty at some institutions—cried "enough" and started to make some tough choices about subscriptions.

In mid-November, I reported in a NewsBreak ( that Cornell University Library was canceling about 200 Elsevier titles. Harvard University said it was preparing for similar cuts in its Elsevier subscriptions. And the University of California was continuing its negotiations with the publisher on behalf of all the UC campuses, while faculty on some campuses—at UC and others—resolved to boycott Elsevier if reasonable rates cannot be negotiated.

Since then, a student newspaper at North Carolina State University reported that the student senate passed a resolution supporting the NCSU libraries' position to not renew the Elsevier ScienceDirect subscription. The NCSU library site has posted extensive information about the contract situation (

Meanwhile, the Triangle Research Library Network's (which includes NCSU, the University of North Carolina­Chapel Hill, North Carolina Central University, and Duke University) contract for electronic access to Elsevier's journals via ScienceDirect was set to expire Dec. 31, 2003. At press time, renewal negotiations were still in process, but according to the NCSU site, if Elsevier doesn't offer TRLN "a reasonable contract for shared electronic access to their journals, NCSU will move to what Elsevier calls its 'Limited Option.' Under this model, NCSU can choose the titles to which it subscribes and more effectively manage costs, but will have to pay a 25-percent access fee for electronic access to our subscribed journal titles." The site also posted a list of 2004 Elsevier cancellations by title.

While it's clear that there's a lot of frustration with the inflexibility of Elsevier's "big deal" pricing bundles and the overall price increases, it's not clear how all of this is affecting the mega-company. According to the following Dec. 4 statement on Elsevier's financial performance, it doesn't look like the organization is suffering from cancellations—at least not yet.

Elsevier continues to perform well with sales growth accelerating in the second half with a strong medical book-publishing program and the continuing success of ScienceDirect. In the Science & Technology business, against a background of considerable pressure on institutional budgets, good growth is being achieved through sales of electronic journal products, including backfiles and subject collections, although there has been some softness in software sales to the pharmaceutical sector. Subscription renewals remain strong and usage of ScienceDirect has doubled versus a year ago. ScienceDirect now has 5 million research articles.

Despite this rosy picture, as this issue went to press, I learned that Elsevier plans to close its BioMedNet site as well as its other science and technology portals, ChemWeb and According to information posted to the Chemical Information Sources Discussion List, the company publication "Elsevier Today" said: "This difficult decision has been made in the context of an extremely challenging budget cycle brought about by the continued tough market conditions. Additionally, changes in legislation make it more difficult to defray costs through advertising-based activities using membership lists. This has led to the need to review the resources deployed on portals in support of our marketing strategy." The company also reportedly indicated that some of the portals' activities would be migrated to the corporate site (

At press time, The Guardian reported that the U.K. House of Commons Science and Technology Committee is conducting an inquiry in early 2004 to examine the pricing and availability of scientific publications and possible government support for open-access publishing. The article noted this could "spell disaster for Reed Elsevier."

BioMed Central on a Roll

Meanwhile, open-access publishing initiatives, which have begun to offer an alternative to costly subscriptions, continue to gather momentum. BioMed Central announced that it has signed institutional membership agreements with two U.S. consortia: the Consortium of Southern BioMedical Libraries and Maine Biomedical Research Infrastructure Network. Prior to this, BioMed Central had just secured membership agreements with three other U.S. consortia. In addition, 17 Australian institutions will become BioMed Central members as part of an agreement with the Council of Australian University Librarians. Starting Jan. 1, article-processing charges will be waived for all staff at the Australian member institutions when they publish in any of BioMed Central's 100-plus peer-reviewed journals.

BioMed Central is an independent publisher that's committed to providing immediate, free online access to peer-reviewed biomedical research. Instead of subscription fees for use, authors or their institutions pay an article-processing charge. BioMed Central's Institutional Membership Program was launched in January 2002 and now has more than 400 members. By the way, BioMed Central is not related to BioMedNet, although BioMedNet was once part of the Current Science Group (owner of BioMed Central). For more on this, see Focus on Publishing on page 17.

Information Commons

The open-access publishing model is gaining support in a number of other arenas. The Information Commons, a project of ALA's Office of Information Technology Policy with support from the Rockefeller Foundation, is an effort to create "a new vision for libraries in the digital age by examining the importance of establishing and protecting a vital public sphere of creative works and finding a middle ground beyond the extremism that dominates the debates over who controls information access."

The group is holding an open forum on the issues at ALA's Midwinter Meeting. As background for the discussion, a white paper is available at According to the paper, one way to advance the information commons is to advocate publication in and subscription to open-access journals.

The following is an excerpt from the discussion document that lists some ways librarians can foster the development of the information commons:

• Involve communities of stakeholders in the design, creation, and
management of information resources.

• Spell out common property resource economic models that elevate the value of shared access over individual consumption.

• Publicize and promote the value and benefits of access as well as the perils of enclosure.

• Promote legislation that ensures public ownership of public research.

• Oppose new copyright laws and regulations that limit the public's access rights.

• Support policies that ensure fair and equitable access to information for everyone.

• Sign licenses and contracts that ensure open access and existing intellectual property rights.

• Encourage peer production of information.

• Publish in and purchase open-access journals.

• Promote open-access licenses.

• Purchase materials from a diverse array of information providers.

• Resist attempts to filter and otherwise control access to ideas.

• Protect against the invasion of privacy through the use of technological surveillance measures.

• Develop digital repositories to facilitate open access to the information assets of individuals and communities.

The Information Society

Representatives from around the world met Dec. 10—12 in Geneva for a United Nations-sponsored World Summit on the Information Society ( The summit's goal was to bridge the digital divide by extending information technology access to all. Political leaders from more than 175 countries gathered to endorse a shared vision in a Declaration of Principles and to commit to a Plan of Action. Among other things, the draft action plan aims "to promote electronic publishing, differential pricing, and open-access initiatives to make scientific information affordable and accessible in all countries on an equitable basis."

Opening the event, Yoshio Utsumi, secretary general of both the summit and the International Telecommunication Union, said: "Today, information is a source of power and a route to riches.... But too many people in the world are deprived of access to information and to the tools for accessing it. Until we address the injustices of the digital divide, we cannot embrace the promise of cyberspace with a clear conscience. The summit provides us with a unique opportunity to develop a shared vision of the emerging information society while addressing today's problems."

Dick Kaser attended the global conference and will be reporting on it in the February 2004 issue. The second phase of the World Summit is scheduled for Nov. 16 to 18, 2005, in Tunis, Tunisia.

E-Book Update

According to data released by the Open eBook Forum (OeBF), the e-book industry trade and standards organization, retail e-book sales continued strong growth in the third quarter of 2003. Cumulative units sold for the first three quarters of 2003 have reportedly surpassed the 1 million mark for the first time in a single year and are up 64 percent over the third quarter of 2002. Revenues reported by retailers for the third quarter of 2003 were up 37 percent over the same period in 2002. This data is featured in the organization's quarterly "OeBF eBook Publishing and Retail Statistics Report." Nick Bogaty, executive director of OeBF, said that these figures are notable, given the departure of Gemstar and from the e-book market.

In the library market, netLibrary said that it has added more than 2,000 new titles since October 2003, and its collection now contains 62,500 e-book titles from more than 300 publishers. Currently, more than 5,500 libraries and organizations access netLibrary e-books either through individually owned collections, shared collections via consortia, or both.

ebrary, which offers electronic books and other documents to libraries in an aggregated, searchable database model, has also had a busy year. ebrary CEO and CTO Christopher Warnock said: "This has been a tremendous year for ebrary. We have grown our customer base by more than 300 percent and now serve libraries and other organizations in 35 different countries, we've expanded the number of books and other documents in our database offerings to more than 35,000, and we've made significant improvements and enhancements to our technology, which now supports four major languages and can process over 20,000 documents per week."

ebrary currently offers 16 aggregated databases that cover all academic subject areas as well as general-interest subjects. It also licenses six complementary, publisher-branded databases. A company spokesperson said that ebrary would be making several significant announcements early this month.

EBSCO/RoweCom Update

EBSCO reports that it's in the "final stages of fully integrating the RoweCom acquisition," which includes RoweCom U.S., Canada, Australia, and Europe. (RoweCom filed for bankruptcy in January 2003. EBSCO completed the acquisition of RoweCom in June 2003.) The company decided to continue operations from the former RoweCom office in Westwood, Mass. Susan Kalalas, operations manager of the office, said: "We are glad to have become part of a company like EBSCO. They said their focus was going to be on merging personnel and systems in a way that would best serve our customers in 2003, and they've done what they said they were going to do."

EBSCO said it has merged the existing EBSCO office in Orsay, France, with the former RoweCom office in Villebon, France. All employees now operate from the Villebon location. EBSCO has also upgraded the U.K. systems that provide information technology support for Europe.

The company regards the RoweCom acquisition as a success. Allen Powell, vice president and chief financial officer for EBSCO Subscription Services, said: "For us, key measures of success include the volume of renewals processed for 2004 and the level of customer satisfaction. Renewal season is beginning to wind down, and we are pleased so far with the renewal activity and customer feedback."

While libraries and the publishing industry are not likely to forget 2003's difficult RoweCom/divine bankruptcy and the impacts on library subscription budgets and publishers' revenues, the healing seems to be progressing. "Challenging" is certainly an understatement for the past year, but EBSCO hopes to move forward now. And after many months of reporting on the events, so do I.

For the latest industry news, check every Monday morning. An easier option is to sign up for our free weekly e-mail newsletter, NewsLink, which provides abstracts and links to the stories we post.

Paula J. Hane is Information Today, Inc.'s news bureau chief and editor of NewsBreaks. Her e-mail address is
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