Magazine article Information Today

Digital Facilitators. (Internet Insights)

Magazine article Information Today

Digital Facilitators. (Internet Insights)

Article excerpt

"Digital facilitators" is not a term that you'll find in articles and conference papers. Given its special role, I use it to refer to an increasingly important information industry group, which should be differentiated from the traditional publishers, abstracting-and-indexing (A&I) services, and online information services.

What Are Digital Facilitators?

Digital facilitators assist publishers in digitizing their publications for the Web. They may offer additional services, such as hosting the publishers' digital journal editions, conference proceedings, and monographs. Such hosting also implies the authentication of customers to determine what services they qualify for depending on whether they are casual or registered visitors, or subscribers.

Importantly, digital facilitators offer their clients an abstracts archive of the primary published documents. This is especially valuable considering that even the smallest digital facilitators host at least hundreds of journals from dozens of publishers, providing one-stop shopping. The variety and mix of the publishers and publications hosted by a digital facilitator often make it unnecessary to run a search in a commercial A&I database, unless one needs a comprehensive search. Subscribers to the digital editions of the journals may then proceed to display the full articles.

The Best Digital Facilitators

There are a number of digital facilitators, but four of them stand out from the crowd: Stanford University Library's High Wire Press, Ingenta, Ingenta Select (formerly known as Catch Word prior to its acquisition by Ingenta), and MetaPress. They may be part of a publisher (MetaPress belongs to a division of EBSCO Industries, Inc.) or they may be totally independent of a traditional publisher, such as Ingenta. All four have good-to-excellent search capabilities, as well as intuitive and well-designed interfaces.

Nevertheless, there are important differences. For example, Ingenta does not search the full text of documents, which can be quite a hindrance for qualified subscribers. Nor does it offer links to cited articles, as Ingenta Select/Catch Word does. MetaPress allows users to limit the search to the journals they subscribe to. HighWire Press has by far the best hyperlinking capabilities, including links to not only many documents cited by the article being read, but also from many documents citing the article being read.

The Benefits of Digital Facilitators

The easiest way to explain the benefits that digital facilitators can offer to publishers is to use an example that most readers of Information Today are familiar with: Information Today, Inc. (ITI). Excuse me if I sound suspiciously enthusiastic about the company (I don't get more perks for it), but I've been writing columns for several of its publications for more than a decade, and I'd like to see it succeed with a full-scale digitization of at least its most current archive.

ITI is the largest publisher of professional information technology journals, conference proceedings, directories, and other periodicals, such as the consistently top-ranked scholarly publication Annual Review of information Science and Technology (ARIST). For a $100 subscription price ($80 for ASIST members), AIRIST qualifies as the most-bang-for-the-buck information science publication with its content. …

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