Magazine article American Libraries

Technically Speaking

Magazine article American Libraries

Technically Speaking

Article excerpt

Games Vendors Play

The exhibits at this year's ALA Midwinter Meeting were a veritable toy store of new games. The most basic and still the most popular game is, of course, the Information Retrieval Game (also known as the Find It Game). But playing this game has gotten so complex and difficult that vendors are developing numerous specialized variations. Here are some of the ones we found as we roamed the exhibit aisles in Washington.

The E-Book Game

E-books were all over the exhibit hall. NetLibrary had its now-usual presence, and Questia showed the e-book/research support subscription service that it is marketing to individuals. In its booth demonstration, the company positioned itself as the library's partner. "Be our friends," they seemed to be saying to libraries. "We are not trying to replace you, but to support you." Nevertheless, so far Questia is not marketing its e-book access to libraries, and the sales rep acknowledged that indeed nothing really can stop a library from subscribing to the service on behalf of its patrons.

As in previous ALA exhibits, ebrary had a relatively low profile, and was not demonstrating a fully functional product--only making its presence known and talking about its approach. Ebrary's e-book collection will be freely accessible to all users who just want to look. Copying or cutting-and-pasting will cost you $0.25 for up to a page's worth of material. The publisher will get 60% of the resulting revenues, ebrary will get 35%, and the library will get 5%. Ebrary will be able to give both libraries and publishers lots of data on both what books and which parts of those books are most heavily used. Disaggregation, here we come,

Perhaps the biggest e-book news at the exhibits was that Baker and Taylor announced its intention to begin selling e-books. It is in the process of lining up publishers and has not yet announced the details of its offerings. The big gorilla, as they say, has just stepped into the ring.

In other e-book goings on, ABC-Clio has made the decision to publish every new title simultaneously as an e-book and a print book, with a goal of making all of its books available in every electronic format. The company's e-book versions are selling for about one-third more than the price of the printed book (

Tucked off in the back of aisle 300 was a new e-book company and first-time ALA exhibitor, ION Systems. Like Questia, they are selling access by subscription; but unlike Questia, they are marketing through public and school libraries rather than directly to individuals. Called, the e-book subscription service has 1,000 books available now; the company expects to increase that number to 25,000 by the end of the year. A subscription costs between $1,200 and $3,600 per year, depending on the size of the library, and provides unlimited access to all books by all authorized patrons. What particularly captured my attention was the ease with which the ION reader software can enlarge or diminish the size of the font. This is a product tailor-made for low-vision people. It works with Jaws and Windows-Eyes, and the company plans on supporting the DAISY (Digital Audio-based Information System) standard by June 2001 (

The Integration Game

The library management system (LMS) vendors are continuing their efforts to integrate library catalog access with all other kinds of data, both bibliographic and full text. Sirsi's iBistro product, a client/server application with browser plug-in software on the client side, is being positioned as the company's foundation product for integrating content for end users.

LMS vendors are not the only ones playing the Integration Game. One new player is, which introduced its e-global library product at Midwinter. Designed to support distance users, this customizable service offers information guides and tutorials put together by professional librarians, as well as a library-customizable way to integrate all resources offered by a library into an integrated information space--a map to help patrons get "the lay of the land" as they hike through the various knowledge domains and vendor services paths on their information quest. …

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