National Academies Press Collection, ELPUB Digital Library, Columbia University Press

By Jacsó, Péter | Online, May/June 2005 | Go to article overview

National Academies Press Collection, ELPUB Digital Library, Columbia University Press


Jacsó, Péter, Online


Many publishers deserve praise for making the advantages of digital publishing available at an affordable price or for no cost at all.

Electronic publishing (or my preferred terminology, digital publishing) has become mainstream, as evidenced by the development of excellent digital collections with powerful access capabilities. Many publishers deserve praise for making the advantages of digital publishing available at an affordable price or for no cost at all. One of my picks is the National Academies Press for its superb collection of more than 3,000 free digital books in all walks of scholarly research. The other pick is ELPUB, a relatively small but worthy collection of the fulltext papers presented at the international conference series on electronic publishing. The pan is Columbia University Press, which acquired the top-notch open access publication, Journal of Electronic Publishing, nearly 3 years ago amid promises of enhancing and improving it (which JEL did not require), then deep-sixed it, without bothering to post a death notice.

NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS' COLLECTION (IMAP)

There has not been much PR or heavy blogging about this worthy project from the National Academies Press [http://books.nap.edu]. I first heard about NAP and the digitization project from Eugene Garfield's announcement on the SIGMETRICS discussion list about 2 years ago. He gave credit to NAP for publishing on the Web the free digital version of the proceedings of the landmark 1959 International Conference on Scientific Information that discussed many facets of information science and services. Much of the table of contents page reads like one from a current proceedings of an information science conference. It was this conference where the fledgling science and technology abstracting/indexing services reported about the state of the art following the Sputnik shock. It is still a fascinating reading for information professionals-particularly when compared with some A/I database editors' contemporaneous PR-stuff masquerading as scholarly articles or conference papers.

On the other end of the time spectrum, cross-referenced by the smart people and software behind NAP, are such important books as the Proceedings of the International Symposium on Open Access and the Public Domain in Digital Data and Information for Science, and the Proceedings on Technical and Medical Journal Publishing and Its Implications. Held in 2004, both are free for online reading. You can purchase the latter as a unit, or chapter by chapter. This chapterby-chapter purchase option is perfect for proceedings (and annual reviews), and shows the sensitivity and the rationality of the publisher. The 3,000 open access monographs and conference proceedings written by respected specialists of the fields cover all walks of scholarly research. Although the majority of books are about science issues, there are also monographs about special topics in education, sociology, public affairs, and economics.

The books are easy to search, are navigational page by page or chapter by chapter (often both in HTML and PDF formats), and can be printed and downloaded (these output options are not always free). There are informative snippets of sentences deemed by the software to be the most important. These can be skimmed to decide if it is worth to jump to and read the specific chapter-an excellent feature. The whole collection can be searched using two different interfaces: the Discovery Engine and the Precision Search Engine. This is unusually puffery verbiage from this publisher for full-text search (Discovery Engine) and title search (Precision Search Engine). One interface and more of the typical fulltext search options using field-specific indexes would be much more useful.

NAP is also trialing an experimental search engine (called Research Dashboard) that generates queries from combinations of terms algorithmically extracted from the full text. You can pass the query to Google and Yahoo! …

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