Just a few months ago, most U.S. publishers and information users had not heard of the U.K.-based ingenta, a company that offered a suite of services for publishers and a search engine for professional journal content with links to full text. In an October 4, 1999 NewsBreak ("Ingenta Brings Suite of Online Publishing Services to the U.S."), I reported on the launch of the company's global expansion campaign and the establishment of a U.S. office in the Boston area. Now, the fast-growing search-and-delivery service has announced that it has merged with UnCover, the popular Colorado-based service that provides journal tables of contents and faxed document delivery. Under the terms of the agreement, ingenta has purchased 100 percent of UnCover's issued stock, and Ward Shaw, chairman of UnCover, will join ingenta's board. The deal only involves the UnCover Co., not Carl Corp., both of which are privately held.
The company chose the ALA Midwinter Meeting in San Antonio, Texas, as the forum for its announcement, taking advantage of nearby booths in the exhibit hall and a planned UnCover User Group meeting to give a presentation and meet customers. At that time, ingenta also announced its new EasyLink service and full-text linking from MEDLINE.
The merger with UnCover will significantly bolster ingenta's content offerings and promises to accelerate its growth into the academic and library market in the U.S., while propelling UnCover beyond its fax-delivery focus. Currently, ingenta has agreements with 30 leading publishers for electronic delivery of their content, with over 2,300 journals offering 750,000 articles. According to the company, traffic to its site is increasing by 50 percent per month, with 15,000 user sessions per day at the end of 1999. Ingenta receives its articles electronically, and the service provides article abstracts with the bibliographic citations.
UnCover has 2,400 publisher agreements for paper copy delivery, offering 8 million article citations from 18,000 journal titles. The UnCover service has about 1 million user sessions per month. The UnCover database of journals goes back to the late 1980s and includes some titles that are only in paper format. UnCover's production process currently involves keyboarding and scanning from paper copies. Ingenta's goal is to obtain the rights to deliver articles electronically from the participating UnCover publishers.
According to Christine Lamb, ingenta's CEO, the ingenta and UnCover services will operate in parallel for the next 6 to 9 months, with ever-increasing linkages established between the two. Users will have a button on each site to go back and forth. Articles are available for free to existing subscribers of the electronic journals, or on a pay-per-view basis where publishers permit. To provide continuity, Carl will manage the operation of UnCover for ingenta for the next 12 months. The services will eventually merge, bringing together and enhancing the best features from each service.
"The combined resources of UnCover and ingenta will provide U.S. academic library users with a distinct research advantage by integrating electronic full-text article delivery into a freely available, online article-search tool," said Lamb. "Ingenta has grown out of academia—it was established using the BIDS Academic Online service as a foundation—and understands the challenges that professional researchers face. The new services together with the UnCover merger provide a complete answer to this community's needs."
The two services should complement each other and prove to benefit everyone involved: the companies, publishers, and users. Ingenta's clean and appealing interface will be paired with the best attributes from both services. The administrative and account management functions from UnCover that are geared for libraries will complement the end-user-oriented pay-per-view option from ingenta. Lamb said both the e-commerce function, with a shopping cart model, and the account management capabilities would be enhanced in the merged service. The popular Reveal e-mail alerting service from UnCover would continue to be offered.
Ward Shaw feels that the synergies between the two service offerings are quite strong, and that both client bases should benefit quickly and significantly from the merger. He said that UnCover had been approached by some companies during the time that he repurchased Carl and UnCover from Dialog, but that ingenta impressed them as being a leader in the provision of electronic journals with its significant presence in the U.K. and growing base in the U.S., and that ingenta had just the right mix of capabilities to benefit UnCover. He expects that, over the next few months, UnCover customers will have a whole range of new services available to them.
Ingenta hopes that combining the services and customer bases will create such significant user traffic that publishers will find it a compelling reason to make their titles available on the service. Publishers are actually in a great position now by having a number of electronic choices of delivery (using services such as HighWire, CatchWord, and others) for their material, with multiple delivery options creating increased distribution opportunities. Increased access should in turn drive up usage, and more business should bring the cost of delivery and access down. We could, however, see additional consolidation within the industry, such as this ingenta and UnCover merger.
Ingenta's newly announced EasyLink service allows librarians to streamline the information-retrieval process. By inserting a link into their Web sites that connects them to the ingenta site at the title level, Easylink allows librarians to control the search-and-retrieval process, creating a more efficient environment for their users. Ingenta's new MEDLINE offering gives researchers access to MEDLINE with links to full-text articles available for free to existing subscribers or for purchase where publishers permit.
The Portal Play
In addition to hosting journals, ingenta converts publishers' data for delivery to third-party vendors, such as OCLC. Ingenta also offers its clients an advanced, XML-based technology (based on eBusiness Technologies' DynaBase) with which to build portals that provide both content and community services. Ingenta currently has seven deals signed for portals and more in discussion; three are currently in progress and scheduled to launch by the end of this month. Two are being produced with CABI Publishing (Nutritiongate.com and animalscience.com), and the third is being produced with the Action Learning Institute, a U.K.-based company that offers courses on the Internet.
According to Lamb, portal building is a key element of ingenta's business. It will allow publishers and groups to create new kinds of information products that can be oriented to a subject or a particular user base. The content doesn't need to be connected to anything in paper format. Despite the growing competition in the portal-building business, Lamb noted that ingenta has chosen the niche of research, scholarly, and professional information, which it believes to have a broad target audience.
As someone more text- than graphics-oriented, I was puzzled by the ingenta logo (right). According to the FAQ on the ingenta site, the company name and its distinctive logo were carefully chosen. According to the company, "ingenta" is Latin for "enormous" and was chosen for its appropriateness to reflect the vast nature of the Internet, the mission of the company, and its academic roots. The ingenta logo is an ancient Roman mosaic design of an eye, found in the Roman baths in Ingenta's hometown of Bath, U.K. It also reflects the digital medium of pixels, and so was chosen to represent the link from the past to the future that ingenta brings to the Web.
For more information, visit http://www.ingenta.com, or call the Cambridge, Massachusetts, office at 617/576-5815.