UMI to Invest $50 Million in Product Development

By Hogan, Tom | Information Today, July-August 1992 | Go to article overview

UMI to Invest $50 Million in Product Development


Hogan, Tom, Information Today


University Microfilms International (UMI) has announced it is initiating a product development effort that will result in an extensive expansion of full-text and full-image information services. Between now and 1996, UMI expects to invest more than $50 million in this project.

Top UMI executives announce the expansion initiative at an elegant press conference at the St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco during the ALA conference in late June. "Our vision and plan calls for a major expansion into areas of full-image and full-text ASCII information delivery," said Parke Malcolm, senior vice president and general manager of serials publishing. "Toward that objective, librarians will be able to choose from as many as 4,000 full-image and 4,000 full-text ASCII titles in the areas of general reference and business by the year 1996."

[In UMI parlance, full-image refers to a database of images--i.e., a bit-mapped database containing a digitized version of a journal article or other document. The advantage of a full-image database is that it can contain entire documents--photos, illustrations, graphs, and so forth. The disadvantage is that the computer can't tell the letter "I" from a part of Abraham Lincoln's nose and therefore can't use words in the text for information retrieval. Full-text or ASCII databases, on the other hand, contain the words and numbers from a document in digital form so they may be searched for and retrieved using many different sorts of retrieval software. Full-text databases, however, usually have a tough time coping with charts and graphs and can't really deal at all with photos and other illustrations. UMI is banking on the notion that both types of databases will be needed in order to satisfy the complete range of information demands in the library.]

Market Research Study Points the Way

In September of 1991, UMI commissioned a study of trends in electronic delivery of information in a library setting. The research was conducted by the Boston Consulting Group, which interviewed librarians from many different types of libraries and which surveyed several information industry organizations. The study looked at emerging trends and tried to determine what librarians felt their needs would be in the future.

Increasingly, the study said, librarians want electronic delivery of full articles. Users of electronic reference products -- both information professionals and end users--prefer "full image" output. That is, they want the complete article as it originally appeared in the publication, including all the charts, graphs, photos, and tables, as well as the complete text. They prefer this to full-text ASCII output.

Secondly, users of all kinds prefer both full-image and full-text databases to abstracts and indexes. Abstracts and indexes will continue to be important, the study said, but only as a means to an end--i.e., the retrieval of the full article electronically.

Tape Leasing to Increase Dramatically

The UMI market research also produced some startling forecasts in the area of tape leasing by libraries. It is estimated that there are currently some 500 libraries which take at least one database in magnetic tape format for processing on inhouse retrieval systems. …

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