Magazine article Information Today

Xrefer Launches Xreferplus Digital Reference Service for Libraries. (News Break)

Magazine article Information Today

Xrefer Launches Xreferplus Digital Reference Service for Libraries. (News Break)

Article excerpt

For the past 2 years, searchers have had Web access to about 50 ready-reference sources from xrefer.com, a U.K.-based free service. Information Today columnist Peter Jacso has called it "a splendid ready-reference collection." Now, the company has officially announced the launch of xreferplus, its new subscription reference service for libraries (http://www.xreferplus.com). The free site is still available (http://www.xrefer.com) and serves as a showcase for the company's technology and its publishing partners' content. xreferplus offers considerably more content and enhanced searching and browsing capabilities.

xreferplus is a giant online reference library that provides access to an aggregated and integrated collection of 100 reference books from 21 leading publishers, including Oxford University Press, Penguin, Grove, Houghton Mifflin, Columbia, and Macmillan. It offers general reference works-- encyclopedias, dictionaries, thesauri, and books of quotations--and a range of subject-specific titles covering everything from art to accountancy and literature to law. There are over 1 million entries, the equivalent of 70,000 paper pages. The cross-referencing technology connects related information across all the works and has generated an additional network of over 5 million "xreferences."

The company claims that xrefer and xreferplus are different from other services because their technology brings an extra dimension to reference books. According to xrefer's Web site: "Our unique technology generates a network of cross-references that provide an easy-to-follow trail to related information contained anywhere within the library. Whereas normal reference books have cross-references that are restricted to that book, xrefer links cross-references in different books as well." The xreferences are generated mostly by a suite of algorithms that are continually being enhanced. In addition, the xreferences become stronger as more content goes into the system (as the system learns more about the properties of the entries).

New functionality added into xreferplus includes a flexible search system that allows users to search individual topics and titles, an advanced search facility, and a new browse interface that lets users drill down through content. The advanced search capabilities include Boolean operators; thematic searching; truncation and wild card searching; phrase searching; and customized search options, such as searching the full text or just headings. I loved the "spelt or sounds like" search. I deliberately misspelled the Greek mythological character Sisyphus as "sysifus" and still retrieved the appropriate results.

Search results are ranked by relevancy and include 200 characters from the entry around your keyword, which is highlighted. An entry page from a source will provide both cross-references within the same work as well as xreferences to other works. There's an option to view a printer-friendly version of the text. xreferplus is also free of commercial advertising.

Adam Hodgkin, managing director of xrefer, said of the launch: "The library market has been in need of a high-quality, integrated digital reference resource for some time. Through liaising and cooperating with the library community at all stages of development, we're confident that we have delivered a service that meets librarians' needs. This is the beginning of a new and exciting phase not only for xrefer, but for the whole reference community. …

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