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Infotrieve Is on the Acquisition Path
Posted On January 27, 2003
Infotrieve's dual announcements last week—its acquisition of the assets of TheScientificWorld (TSW) and of Ariel software—position the company to dominate document delivery. The two deals stem from different motives on the part of the sellers, but are clearly in line with Infotrieve's mission to be the market leader in article research and delivery, to be the single point of service to its customers.

TSW, founded in 2000, concentrated on scientific publishing, combining retrieval of secondary documents with Web publishing of original scholarly articles. TSW served research-dependent companies, academic institutions, health organizations, and government agencies in the fields of life sciences, healthcare, industrial biotechnology, and environmental sciences. Its e-journal TheScientificWorldJOURNAL had approximately 500 articles published when it ceased operations last year. These articles will be added to Infotrieve's FindArticles and Infotrieve is contacting authors and editors to revive the publication.

SciBASE, the document delivery portion of TSW, closely parallels what Infotrieve already supplies—not surprising, since TSW used Infotrieve as the fulfillment agent for documents. The peripheral journals unique to the TSW database will be added to Infotrieve.

Infotrieve plans to reactivate TSW's alerts service, which had been called scienceTracker, probably as part of its TOC service. Its methodsBASE—methods and protocols literature in the life sciences—was a partnership with BIOSIS that Infotrieve will revive. Updates to that database should be available shortly, according to Wes Crews, Infotrieve's president and CEO.

Crews said that rebuilding TSW and integrating it into Infotrieve will be done as a phased approach. He is particularly pleased to be able to add the publishing component to Infotrieve's core competency of document delivery for the scientific, technical, and medical markets.

The acquisition of Ariel software from RLG (formerly the Research Libraries Group) further extends the reach of Infotrieve in its chosen market, particularly in the on-demand delivery of articles. RLG, as a nonprofit consortium of 161 research libraries worldwide, developed Ariel over 10 years ago. With advice from its member libraries, RLG has continued to develop the software, which allows libraries to electronically convey and share scanned or digitized documents as high resolution TIF or PDF formats.

However, RLG recognized that it had gone as far as it could with its own limited resources. Selling Ariel to Infotrieve will allow for market expansion and technical enhancements. Ariel currently runs on 9,400 workstations, representing approximately 6,000 institutions.

Crews noted that Infotrieve will seek the input of librarians through user groups and monitoring the online discussion group devoted to Ariel (arie-l). "We have a long-term vision about integrating Ariel with our existing product mix," said Crews. "We think it adds great value to Infotrieve and we look forward to adding some content management tools in the future."

Crews is quick to point out that Infotrieve is concerned about intellectual property rights, both of information providers and library customers. Royalties are set by publishers, not Infotrieve, and can change without warning, he notes. With its focus on being a full service provider, he thinks that Infotrieve must have high quality products to offer libraries. He admits there's work to be done in that area.

With these two purchases, the options for libraries in choosing a document delivery company have narrowed considerably. Libraries that completely outsource document delivery to Infotrieve are generally pleased with the service. However, others feel its prices are too high. And, should a library become displeased with Infotrieve, it's unclear as to where they would turn for an alternative. One possibility is to check each publisher's Web site for free copies of articles. For most libraries, with a constant need for articles, this is unrealistic. For an individual wanting one copy of one article, it's doable.

The only other company that comes close to doing what Infotrieve does is Ingenta. Now that Infotrieve has added the editorial capabilities of TSW and the instant delivery of scanned scholarly articles, it has much more to offer.

Document delivery can be a legal minefield and the journal literature itself is tricky to master. Infotrieve seems unafraid, undaunted, and fully ready to embrace innovation and new technology for document delivery.

Marydee Ojala is the editor-in-chief of Online Searcher magazine, chairs WebSearch University, and is Program Development Director for Enterprise Search & Discovery.

Email Marydee Ojala
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