Business Periodicals Ondisc: ABI/Inform on CD-ROM
Business Periodicals Ondisc is the CD-ROM version of ABI/Inform, covering more than 800 business and management titles for the most recent five year period (for example, from February 1986 to January 1991). In addition, the full text of 340 titles can be displayed, and complete articles can be laser-printed by users at the Business Periodicals Ondisc Workstation.
Searching Business Periodicals Ondisc is similar to searching any other electronic bibliographic index. Searches can be conducted by keyword, author, personal name, descriptor, publication year, or ABI/Inform classification code. Novice users find the system inviting and approachable.
Experienced searchers will find few problems in becoming familiar with the more powerful features offered by the system. However, use of some of the advanced search commands is not immediately obvious. For example, users will not initially realize that w/seg means within the same segment of the record. Similarly, the designation pre/2 may be puzzling until they discover that it means preceding, within two words.
The Boolean operators, AND, OR, and NOT are available as is truncation. Search terms can be selected from the Business Periodicals Ondisc word index, or from a particular abstract. Choosing terms from abstracts allow sideways searching from one abstract to another. If desired, search terms can simply be typed into the keyboard.
Searches can be reused, and up to 12 previous searches can be accessed in this way. During a search, the user presses function keys to exercise various search options. Menu-driven help screens explain both basic and advanced search features.
The effect of using the Page Down key can be a bit confusing, since the last three lines of text are repeated on the subsequent display.
At the point in a search when a citation and abstract are displayed on the screen, the user is not informed whether or not the corresponding article is available in full text through the system. Nevertheless, the screen instructs the user to "Press Enter to display the complete article for this item."
If full text is available, the display then indicates which CD-ROM to mount. Once the disc is mounted, desired pages, or the full article, can be printed on the laser printer.
If full text is not available on CD-ROM, the user can print the citation and, if desired, the abstract, on the system's bubble jet printer.
To browse through specific issues of a journal, the user goes to an on-screen Periodical Directory to locate the needed CD-ROM disc for those issues. When a disc is mounted, the cover, table of contents, and any article can be viewed on the screen. The large, high resolution monitor allows pages to be enlarged or reduced for easiest reading.
Pages being viewed can also be printed. All page prints are on 8 1/2 by 11 inch paper.
Delays on Titles
Even though an updated index disc and added full-text discs are sent each month, this material is not timely enough to replace conventional subscriptions. For example, in the discs received for February 1991, the latest full text material on Barron's (a weekly) was October 29, 1990. A University Microfilms, Inc. representative reported "60 to 90 day delay on some titles."
Even for those titles that are promptly included in Business Periodicals Ondisc, a library that leases this system would be unwise to discontinue paper subscriptions, there is always a chance that a future library Ondisc subscription be cancelled.
Furthermore, while sitting at the workstation, only the current user has access to any of the titles and issues that are recorded on CD-ROM. To give service to multiple users simultaneously, a library would have to install many Business Periodicals Ondisc systems.
The Canon laser printer that comes with the system provides black and white prints with excellent resolution of text and line drawings, such as graphs. Reproduction of photographs and color material is less satisfactory. Dark colored backgrounds sometimes render printed text difficult or impossible to read.
Bubble jet printing takes about forty seconds to get started. Printing a list of ten citations with abstracts takes about five minutes. To print more than ten citations, the user must mark selected items before printing, using the F9 key. Citations cannot be printed on the laser printer, so the laser is not available to back up the bubble jet printer in case of failure.
During the review, the bubble jet printer experienced one failure, which proved frustrating since users then had to resort to paper and pencil for note-taking. University Microfilms' technical support sent a replacement bubble jet printer by overnight express when notified of the problem.
Dun's Number Errors
The most significant search problem for the Business Periodicals Ondisc data-base appears to be with errors in the Dun's number field of ABI/Inform data.
During this review, searching on a presumably unique identifying number gave surprising results. A search on IBM's Dun's number: DN (00-136-8083) AND NOT CO (IBM), produced results that included material tagged with twenty-two other exotic company names.
This was not an isolated case. A similar result was obtained in Dun's number searches for General Electric and General Motors material. At least one abstract was found to call for "chart" and "references" in a 1/2 page ComputerWorld news item. The actual item contained neither.
Users found that some titles, which were represented as existing in full text, did not actually exist on CD-ROM disc. There were minor spelling errors in the abstracts. Such errors may not amount to a serious indictment of Business Periodicals Ondisc, but they do raise questions about data-base quality.
Librarians and other information professionals will find the $19,000 subscription fee daunting. Business Periodicals Ondisc will not fit into budgets which are already squeezed, and library decision-makers will in any case need to give a purchase decision very thorough scrutiny.
In addition to the subscription fee, University Microfilms, Inc. exacts a 10 cent per page charge for every page printed on the system. Since the subscription price is clearly designed to recover development costs, why one wonders the user (or library) is charged on a per-page basis? Perhaps this is to cover copyright restrictions. Who would argue that journal authors and publishers not be compensated for their efforts?
The workstation tracks printing and collects the billing information. If a library wishes to offset these charges, coin collection and debt-card hardware can be attached to the system. This feature was not evaluated during this review.
Based on a two-month review trial, the cost of supplies, including toner, paper, and bubble jet printer ink, is substantial. Six laser jet toner cartridges, at $65.00 per cartridge, were used during the review. About ten reams of paper were consumed each month.
These costs may have been higher than normal, since users were not charged for article printing during the review. If users are charged more than ten cents per page (the University Microfilms, Inc. charge), it is possible to recover supply costs, and even to offset part of the subscription costs for the system.
Although no CD-ROM discs were lost during the two-month review period, the use of open carousels for these discs could pose a security nightmare in some libraries. University Microfilms, Inc. has a stated policy of sending replacement discs immediately when notified one is missing.
Installation of the Business Periodicals Ondisc system took two days, and the system was ready to run when the installer left. Telephone support from University Microfilms, Inc. was excellent on the few occassions when there was a need to call.
In summary, Business Periodicals Ondisc is an impressive leap forward in library technology. With the reservations noted about the price of this product, it is recommended wholeheartedly.…