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APA Discontinuing Print Index After 8 Decades, Adding Full-Text Archives
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Posted On July 3, 2006
After 80 years as the leading abstracting and indexing (A&I) service in the behavioral sciences, this December will see the last issue of Psychological Abstracts. Subscribership for the print publication has dropped steadily from an all-time high of 9,500 to just a few hundred in 2005. The number of records added annually to PsycINFO that don't appear in Psychological Abstracts has exceeded the total number of records in Psychological Abstracts for more than 15 years. According to Linda Beebe, senior director of PsycINFO for the American Psychological Association (APA; http://www.apa.org), the final nail in the coffin was when the print source's coverage reached only 32 percent of what PsycINFO covers. Institutional subscribers pay more than $1,600 a year for that 32 percent, while individual APA members can subscribe to a package that includes all of PsycINFO, PsycARTICLES, and PsycBOOKS for only $149. At the same time that it announced the "retirement" of the print index, APA also announced the addition of some 70,000 full-text articles dating back to 1894 to the PsycARTICLES file. The annual reload of the PsycINFO file, carried on 13 platforms including APA's own PsycNET, has also added some new features.

The decision to drop the print source followed a 3-year review and, according to Beebe, "considerable soul-searching." Though the demise of Psychological Abstracts marks an end of the era for print, the digital era is already well-established. PsycINFO, the online A&I database begun in 1967, has dominated the delivery of service to the APA's members and subscribing libraries for many years. By 2006, it included nearly 2.3 million records, covering 2,082 journals from 900 publishers as well as other content types with weekly updates, in contrast with the monthly Psychological Abstracts. For years, print costs have required the APA to limit coverage in Psychological Abstracts. Document types such as dissertation abstracts, journals in languages other than English, very lengthy abstracts, and most books, never made it into Psychological Abstracts. In 2005, 116,000 records went into PsycINFO, but only 37, 256 made it into the print source.

"Given the phenomenal success of PsycINFO, which now provides thousands of libraries worldwide with vastly more content than we could ever deliver with the print index, we now believe we can better serve the few remaining Psychological Abstracts subscribers in other ways," said Beebe. Of the libraries still subscribing to print, many reportedly also have site licenses to PsycINFO; APA is working with those who do not. APA offers site licenses to institutions and low-cost electronic packages to individuals, both members and nonmembers (http://www.apa.org/gold). The final issue of Psychological Abstracts (vol. 93, no. 12) will appear in December 2006.

PsycARTICLES is a full-text collection of articles published in 59 APA and affiliated journals (including three journals from the Canadian Psychological Association and eight English-language foreign journals). PsycARTICLES has now doubled in size with the addition of some 73,000 full-text APA journal articles dating from 1894 to 1984. The expanded collection was released in March to CSA, EBSCO, Elsevier Science Direct, Hogrefe, OCLC, Ovid, and ProQuest. All articles are full-text searchable as well as downloadable in both PDF and HTML with tables and graphs in JPEG format. APA's own PsycNET is the first platform to carry the expanded PsycARTICLES file, with Ovid scheduled for next month and other vendors expected to reload the database soon.

APA is providing this additional content at no additional data fee. The APA monitors the treatment each of the platforms gives their databases closely and provides comparative information for vendor performance at the APA's Librarian's Resource Center (http://www.apa.org/librarians). Such publicized attention may explain why the APA can predict all the vendors carrying its files will perform requested reloads in a timely manner.

The bulk of the references added to PsycARTICLES already had matching entries in PsycINFO's collection of A&I metadata. However, completing the match involved adding 15,000 new records to PsycINFO as well as adding cited reference (footnote) data to more than 74,000 existing records. PsycINFO is available on 13 platforms: APA's own PsycNET, CSA (Cambridge Scientific Abstracts) Illumina, DataStar, Dialog, DIMDI, EBSCO, Elsevier Science/Science Direct, Hogrefe Publishing Group (http://www.europsych.net), OCLC, Ovid Technologies, ProQuest, SilverPlatter, and Thomson ISI.

With the new reload—already complete on APA PsycNET, OCLC, and Ovid—PsycINFO users can also access a new Grant/Sponsorship field, identifying items funded by grant number and information on the recipient. The ISBN field now includes qualifiers to identify electronic formats, such as CD, DVD, or XML. Records will no longer carry Journal URL or Publisher URL fields, however. The APA has replaced these fields—at the request of librarians, according to APA—with an interactive Journal and Publisher table available on its own Web site (http://www.apa.org/psycarticles/covlist.html).

The APA also publishes the following:

  • PsycBOOKS—more than 16,000 full-text chapters and 1,000 full-length books; scheduled to include a print-on-demand option for out-of-print books by the end of the year, available on five platforms
  • PsycEXTRA—a collection of gray literature, such as reports, conference presentations, standards, and data sets with PDF full-text files for 70 percent of the entries, available on PsycNET and EBSCOhost
  • PsycCRITIQUES—the electronic book and film review file that replaced the print journal, Contemporary Psychology: APA Review of Books in January 2005, available on five platforms

Not only does the APA attend assiduously to the quality of its data and the breadth of its delivery outlets to institutions, it also makes sure that individuals can access its information. For example, using PsycNET, individuals can access PsycINFO for $11.95 for a 24-hour day. Using PsycARTICLES Direct, individuals can view abstracts of articles and book chapters for no charge but pay $11.95 for each item read, saved, or printed. At present, the APA is also considering more packages for institutional subscribers, according to Beebe.

APA also plans to continue expanding its coverage and access routes. They hope to reach out to some smaller publishers who lack good electronic publishing facilities and offer coverage in PsycARTICLES. APA belongs to the CrossRef program providing linking support to non-APA journals in PsycINFO. At present, it is also looking at the problem of different versions of research, including open access. Although formal open access journals are covered in PsycINFO, Beebe indicates that other open access content could appear in the PsycEXTRA file in time. She believes that the importance of PsycEXTRA will grow as nonacademics, who don't need to publish in formal journals, use conference presentations and other "all-digital" routes as their primary outlets. They are also in negotiation with Web search engine services, such as Google Scholar and Microsoft's Windows Live Academic search.


Barbara Quint was senior editor of Online Searcher, co-editor of The Information Advisor’s Guide to Internet Research, and a columnist for Information Today.


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