Magazine article Online

Laserdisk Product of the Year: A Matter of Significance

Magazine article Online

Laserdisk Product of the Year: A Matter of Significance

Article excerpt

When Jeff Pemberton, publisher of ONLINE and DATABASE, first suggested an award for the best new laserdisk product of the year, I thought it was a very good idea that would help to focus and reward producers for outstanding innovations in this product area. As the awards process unfolded last fall, I realized how complicated such a process truly is and how much the industry and the user communities have changed and matured in the past four years.

When CD-ROM first appeared, producers tended to hype the medium in ways that mesmerized many information professionals. The very possibility of a cheap new system of storing vast stores of data and information coupled with online-quality retrieval programs opened the door for opportunities that information professionals could only dream of before. Online had certainly made information far more available and malleable than ever had been possible in print. However, the price tag proved to be a serious glitch in the 'new information age' dreams of most information agencies. For specialized information centers, where cost factors are balanced with performance and profitability, both online systems and optical media have been important resources, and integrated into their budgets and service programs rather quickly

Questions of cost and benefit have plagued the more price-sensitive areas of traditional library services. In many libraries, online services remain a difficult administrative question: What is an online search-a 'book,' a 'Supply,' or perhaps a 'service?' Who should online services be geared to: students, who most probably cannot afford to pay the costs, or faculty? What about the outside clientele? These questions still provide the fodder for many reference staff meetings in libraries. In traditional libraries, budgets, services, and personnel responsibilities are still based on the dominant medium, which is print. How can one apply 'collection development' concepts and 'bibliographic control' principles to something as elusive as an online database?

CD-ROM, the dominant optical medium in libraries, has provided some answers to these difficult questions. CD-ROM comes with a specific price tag and is itself a threedimensional object which can be cataloged, stored and 'owned.' Still, CD-ROM has brought its own set of sometimes difficult questions and problems that has delayed or prevented many libraries from exploiting the medium as much as they could.


I think, that the time is right for an award for laserdisk products. With over 200 CD-ROM titles available to the general marketplace and many other optical formats also available, or soon to come into the marketplace, we finally are developing a pool of information resources which can and perhaps should be evaluated for overall merit.

Today the CD-ROM marketplace contains about an equal number of general reference titles, scientific/technical disks, and social sciences/business/humanities products. This is largely due to the number of traditional online/print publishers who have targeted the medium for the dissemination of products already available in other formats. All of the largest selling CD-ROM-based products today-InfoTrac, ERIC, MEDLINE, Disclosure, Books in Print PLUS, Readers Guide to Periodical Literature, AGRICOLA, and Dissertation Abstracts-have pre-existing online or print counterparts. In fact, nearly 90% of today's CDROM products result directly from existing online or print sources. With the advent of CD-I, DVI, and products such as Hewlett-Packard's LaserROM, this pattern of dominance should change.

Granting an award for laserdisk products is not only a chance to recognize products of value to our profession, but a way to reward the industry for truly significant, innovative information products that work.


Determining the award criteria in advance was not too difficult. …

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