E-Reference Books: A Knovel Experience
Felter, Laura M., Searcher
In the course of making the transition from corporate librarian to independent researcher this past year, I have missed my former access to e-reference texts. Free tools for searching and accessing full-text journal content such as Scirus and Google Scholar have taken the edge off my lack of database access, though many of us can log in to commercial offerings, e.g., from ProQuest or Thomson Gale, through our local public libraries. But that offers small consolation for one who used to access the digital wonders of core reference books in the sci-tech fields, such as those found in Knovel (sci-tech and engineering content), Books 24x7 (business, computer, and technical content), or for more niche markets, such as the medical field (Elsevier's MDConsult).
The benefits of providing reference material through one's desktop are many; most prominent are the increased access and improved usability. As Lynn Silipigni Connaway noted in her article, "Electronic Books (eBooks): Current Trends and Future Directions" (DESIDOC Bulletin of Information Technology, vol. 23, no. 1, Jan. 2003, pp. 13-18 [http://www.drdo.com/pub/ dbit/jan03/LYNN.pdf]), the advantages of e-books include (1) the capability to search content within a book and within a collection, (2) the absence of physical space requirements, and (3) on-demand content availability. As one of many librarians who has developed collections for a worldwide network of library centers, e-reference has made it possible to offer research materials to all those who require it simultaneously versus having to choose which privileged site(s) receives the print version. Researchers at R&D sites without a library center appreciate being on equal footing with their co-workers in accessing the information they need. Isn't it great to be able to tell a client and their team that you not only have the ability to obtain the reference material they need, but that they can offer immediate access?
This article focuses on what's new and hot in the sci-tech and patent fields for information professionals, and e-books have been around a long time. So, I'd like to draw your attention to Connaway's comment about the advantage in linking e-books to other resources, including dictionaries and thesauri. Technology has evolved well beyond this capability, as Stephen E. Arnold illustrated quite beautifully in his article last spring on Knovel, a leader in the science and technology e-book market ["Interactive Technical Books: A Bloomberg for Engineers," Searcher, vol. 12, no. 3, March 2004, pp. 45+, http://www.knovel.com/knovel2/knovel_in_the_news. jsp]. In fact, shortly after the publication of Arnold's article, Knovel was declared a 2004 Red Herring winner in recognition of being one of the top private companies serving the technology market.
Why have we chosen to feature only one of the several e-reference databases available? While several are worthy of attention, Knovel keeps expanding the technological capabilities of e-books, as well as expanding its sci-tech and engineering content in core and emerging fields. This makes it the obvious choice to observe in order to keep pace with advancements. In the last year alone, Knovel has introduced its K-Essentials outreach program and added chemical structure searching to its list of productivity tools. It's worth taking a look at this company, at the very least to see where other e-book databases can go.
Knovel carries over 700 essential reference books and databases within the subject areas of chemistry and the life sciences, materials, and engineering. Content ranges through technical handbooks, manuals, and conference proceedings and comes from such major publishers as McGraw-Hill, John Wiley & Sons, Elsevier, and industry societies such as the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and the American Society. of Mechanical Engineers. However, the content doesn't stop there. Knovel also contains its own interactive sources of data compilations. …