Magazine article Information Today

Online Information 2003

Magazine article Information Today

Online Information 2003

Article excerpt

In December, most of us are focused on year-end issues: budgets, holiday plans, etc. But for the 27th successive REPORT year, thousands of participants in the information industry converged on London's Olympia Conference and Exhibition Centre from Dec. 2 to 4 for what continues to be the most important event on the online information business calendar.

No matter what other evidence there is about the state of the industry, the statistics associated with the Online Information event and the atmosphere in the conference and exhibit aisles provide endless fodder for speculation on the survival and continuing evolution of the services that create and distribute electronic information.

So how did Online Information 2003 stack up against previous years? The number of exhibition attendees who trooped through the Grand Hall remained steady at just more than 11,000, which is pretty much the same as 2002. At 224, the total number of exhibitor stands was up a little over the previous year, but about 30 companies occupied space in a new co-located exhibition called Content Management Europe. That fact plus the continuing trend of consolidation through company mergers makes it difficult to compare year to year, but overall the trend is down, with fewer companies using smaller booths.

However, talk to any producer or distributor and you'll get a pretty upbeat message--maybe tempered with the comment that although things will never be the same as before, there are strong signs that the worst of the recession is over. And while you don't expect to get complete candor with a dumb question like, "So how's everything going?" I did detect a small improvement in mood over last year.

Perhaps this was because there were more new developments and services among some of the traditional players than in recent years. There are those that won't simply wait around for extinction while leaving it all to the robot search engines.

Unlike 2002, when I found few new developments among the long-surviving players--including many that had at tended every Online Information show--I noticed four trends this year that showed product enhancements which play to traditional strengths: content development, improved timeliness in product updates, new analysis tools, and collaborative activity.

Content Development

The digitization of historical back-files isn't exactly an earth-shattering development, but it's one that many producers have recently embraced and that is difficult for the Internet generation of companies to compete with. Maybe it all started with the large society journal publishers that were persuaded by their membership to release online versions of their entire published output in full text.

This has created a sufficiently large online collection of original material that, with the added facility of DOIs and other citation-linking mechanisms, makes worthwhile the release of historical backfiles of bibliographic databases such as Chemical Abstracts, CAB Abstracts, Engineering Index, and INSPEC, to name but a few. It seems that virtually everyone with an archive of printed abstracts is turning them into online files.

In addition to a historical archive, INSPEC is increasing coverage to include a fifth section of the database, Section E: Manufacturing and Production Engineering. This will expand the number of journals that have been scanned for database coverage by more than 200 new titles.

The American Psychological Association will launch its gray literature database PsycEXTRA in early 2004. This is a bibliographic file that links to the full text of a variety of non-peer-reviewed literature, newsletters, magazines, and other material written for a lay audience. In April, APA plans to launch PsycBOOKS, which contains the full text of all APA scholarly titles plus additional psychology classics from other publishers.

Full-text journal publishers are looking to increase the content of their online journals so they fully match the print versions. …

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