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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship
Winter 2004

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Database Reviews and Reports

Info-Sci Online

Amy W. Shannon
Life Sciences and Engineering Librarian
University of Nevada, Reno Libraries

InfoSci-Online, from Idea Group Inc., provides full text access to IGI's print journals, books, and proceedings on the subject of information science, technology and management. It includes literature from the publisher's three imprints: Idea Group Publishing, Information Science Publishing, and IRM Press.

InfoSci-Online advertises its inclusion of journals, books, proceedings, and teaching cases. Although this product includes full text of IGI's currently published 8 quarterly journals, 1 annual, and 1 semi-annual newsletter, the heart of the product is the books. The journals, although valuable, are not enough to fully cover any topic in depth. It should be noted that IGI lists another 14 quarterly journals that it will begin publishing in January, 2005. Libraries that maintain a list of direct links to ejournals will be frustrated by the search-only access.

The books are the main attraction this product. 189 titles are included, covering topics in all areas of information science, from telecommunications to E-learning to management. The database is updated monthly, and books are added to the database before they go to print. IGI promises to add approximately 1300 additional book chapters per year. Currency of the content is quite good, with all books published 2000 through 2004. Don't look for software manuals here. Many of the titles are theoretical, in contrast to the computer-manual style of the majority of books in Books24X7 or Safari. The titles are designed for professionals, rather than laymen, and are appropriate for university-level collections.

Although the product includes proceedings published by IGI, these papers originate from only 4 meetings. Perhaps this will be an area of expansion in the future.

InfoSci-Online includes 'Teaching Cases'. These are case studies drawn from book and journal content already covered by the database, so they do not represent additional material. They are, however, handily set apart to be easily searched and found. Just as the products name for them implies, these 'teaching cases' may be most useful as real-world examples that can be brought into the information science classroom.

The Software

There are three types of searches: Basic, Advanced, and Topic. In the 'Basic Search', searching is not of the full text; a keyword search searches the title, subtitle, abstract and assigned keywords. The 'Advanced Search' allows the use of Boolean operators, and allows searching by Article Number, Title, Description, Source, Author, and Year. Truncation is allowed with an asterisk. The 'Topic Search' provides preset categories to choose, such as 'Distance Learning' or 'E-commerce'. Results of choosing a single category (they can be combined for more results) will yield anywhere from 30 hits (Client Server Technology) to 1096 hits (IT Management). Most categories return more hits than the average user would wish to browse through and the categories are a bit too broad to be useful.

Overall the interface is easy and fairly obvious. Help screens are useful and, for the most part, written with admirable clarity. Comparing the interface with that of other e-book products, the software is much easier to use than that of netLibrary or Books24x7. On the other hand, both of these other products allow searching within the full text.

The greatest limitation of this product is that it only includes the output of a single publisher. In that sense it can reasonably serve as a supplement, rather than a replacement for other technical e-book products, such as Books24x7, or O'Reilly Books' Safari product. Books are delivered on the chapter basis, instead of as complete books. This doesn't fit the traditional model, which many libraries still like to deliver, and makes it difficult to link directly to titles from a library's online catalog. Although it is not possible to link to a full book, you can search by source and get lists of chapters or contents, so reading the entire book, beginning-to-end, is possible, if a bit awkward. A plus to the chapter-at-a-time search is that it allows instructors to easily build course reading lists.

Summary Judgment

InfoSci-Online is a good supplement to the other technical e-book products on the market. The theoretical bent of many of the titles covered, and the ease of adding chapters to reading lists, makes it particularly good for institutions with strong information science curricula.

InfoSci-Online is available from Idea Group, Inc. at {}.

IP addressing and use of proxies are supported.

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