Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

When It Pays to Pay for Research

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

When It Pays to Pay for Research

Article excerpt

There comes a time when one asks even of Yahoo, even of Google, "Is this all?" Yahoo and Google do an admirable job of categorizing the Internet and making its contents more accessible. But ultimately they're search tools, not research tools. There's a great deal of information not on the Internet, particularly thoroughly researched, carefully checked information.

Information professionals have long known this, and it's for this reason that they use high-end research tools such as Dialog, at , and LexisNexis, at . In recent years both of these information aggregators have made their offerings more affordable for more casual business users, and both services are worth a look.

But there's a middle ground between the high end of the commercial research databases and the free Web. It's a middle ground, though, that has presented some pretty tough terrain for companies treading upon it in the past.

Northern Light made a go at providing paid reference services through the Internet at midrange pricing, combining a genetic Web search engine with proprietary content from thousands of newspapers, magazines and books, charging $1 to $4 per full-text article. It received stellar reviews, but its parent company, Divine Inc., went bankrupt, and the service has emerged today as a specialized tool for companies who want to search inside their own data.

Infonautics with its Electric Library service, later renamed eLibrary, offered a flat-rate plan that cost $60 per year for full-text access to articles from more than a thousand newspapers, newswires, magazines, books, and TV and radio transcripts, eLibrary also received great reviews but also failed to catch on in sufficient numbers with the business, educational and home markets it targeted.

The latest attempt is flora a company called HighBeam Research, at , which has actually picked up the pieces from the struggling eLibrary, acquiring it in August 2002. Headquartered in Chicago, the company initially gave the reborn service a new moniker, Alactritude, which was a combination of the words "attitude" and "alacrity."

"People had problems spelling it," said HighBeam chairman and CEO Patrick Spain, so the company now calls its service by the same name as the company. HighBeam currently has two components, the retooled eLibrary and a generic Web search tool that uses the well-regarded Fast search engine licensed from the Norwegian company Fast Search and Transfer. …

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