Magazine article Information Today

ProQuest Direct Delivers UMI Goods; Versatile Document Viewing, Pricing, and Delivery Are among the New Service's Highlights

Magazine article Information Today

ProQuest Direct Delivers UMI Goods; Versatile Document Viewing, Pricing, and Delivery Are among the New Service's Highlights

Article excerpt

It has become a cliche to say that the 1990s are an age of redefinition for anyone in the electronic information business. The challenge is especially great for older companies, whose products and services were formed in the beginnings of the online period, or even earlier with preelectronic media. Unlike new companies, they do not start with a clean slate. They must adapt an existing set of products and services to new ways.

Oddly enough for the information business, successful redefinitions usually do not take the form of brand new data. The major sources of data, in every field, have remained strikingly constant for the past 20 years. The big changes have been taking place in the delivery: new distributors, data connections, formats, interfaces, partnerships, and pricing schemes. The trick is not so much to create new data (there is quite enough of that), but to leverage what you have.

One company with a big stake in an aging medium is UMI (formerly known as University Microfilms International.) Even the original company name itself is associated with an awkward, fading technology. Over many years of reliable microform service to libraries and other customers, UMI has amassed an enormous amount of information but in a format that is rapidly being replaced by various electronic forms of delivery. Microform may never disappear entirely, especially for retrospective data that are not cost-effective to digitize, but its market share will continue to shrink. The task for UMI is to redefine itself so that it too will not shrink in a digitized world.

UMI, of course, has long been active with online and CD-ROM products. Many of its online databases, especially ABI/INFORM, Dissertation Abstracts, Business Dateline, Newspaper Abstracts, and Periodical Abstracts, are leaders in their respective fields. UMI's ProQuest line of CD-ROMs, in both ASCII and image formats, is well established in that market. But despite the success of these products, UMI is still reshaping for the `90S.

Direct from UMI

UMI's latest step is ProQuest Direct, a new online service that merges several UMI hallmarks-indexing and abstracting, ASCII and image full text, wide subject coverage, and multiple document delivery options-into a uniform document search and delivery system. ProQuest Direct is a hybrid service that doesn't fit neatly into conventional categories. It is an online database service, but in its initial form, it lacks some important search features. It has extensive data resources, but it will not supplant the leading comprehensive online services. Ultimately, it is its own breed, a powerful document delivery instrument that integrates all of the tricks of that trade, from full-text online image documents to the U.S. mail.

Proquest Direct is primarily a periodical database that provides indexing, abstracting, and selective full text for nearly 4,000 titles from the vast collection UMI maintains for its microform operations. In effect, it is a composite of UMI's electronic databases, including ABI/ INFORM, Periodical Abstracts, Newspaper Abstracts, Business Dateline, Accounting & Tax Database, Banking Information Source, and Pharmaceutical News Index. The correlation is not exact, since some titles do not appear because of publishers' restrictions. The collection gives ProQuest Direct a thorough selection of the principal periodicals in business, management, finance, news, and current affairs, with strong representation from the leading research publications in many fields. Retrospective coverage ranges from two to five years, and sources appear online very soon after publication.

At this point, ProQuest Direct is derived from existing UMI electronic content, but the company has ambitious plans to diversify well beyond it. Second quarter `96 should bring daily updates, in page image, of The New York times and of company information from Disclosure. Later in the year, periodical coverage will expand greatly with the addition of indexing from 7,000 more serials from UMI's collection. …

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