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ebrary Is on a Roll
Posted On January 1, 2004
We've just seen the end of a year that was filled with difficult times. A struggling economy, strained budgets, corporate belt-tightening, scandals, and bankruptcies seemed to permeate 2003, along with war and natural disasters. So it's heartening for me to begin the new year by reporting on a company that has just ended 2003 by exhibiting tremendous forward momentum and success. ebrary, a provider of interactive, electronic full-text databases, just announced that it has increased its customer base by 300 percent in the last year, achieved a renewal rate exceeding 95 percent for its database subscriptions, and now offers a collection of more than 35,000 titles. ebrary was recently named to the 2003 EContent 100 list of leading companies in the digital content industry

ebrary uses its technology to create online databases of content from leading publishers, which it then licenses to more than 350 libraries and other institutions. It offers the content in the form of searchable, simultaneous-use databases rather than as separate e-book titles for individual use. ebrary currently features more than 35,000 full-text books, sheet-music titles, maps, reports, and other documents from more than 175 academic, trade, and professional publishers. The company increased its aggregated databases by more than 30 percent in 2003 at no additional cost to its customers, while adding more than 30 new publishers. It also launched ebrary Discover, a fee-based consumer site designed for individuals who don't have access to the ebrary database collections through a library.

In 2003, ebrary made a number of technological improvements to its system, including localized support for multiple languages, which can be dynamically selected by the user; content-presentation enhancements; support for Boolean searching; and a user interface that's configurable on a customer-by-customer basis. The ebrary databases integrate with existing ILS systems and digital resources and provide MARC cataloging records with direct links to each title.

This year, the company is announcing the addition of new aggregated and publisher-branded databases to its portfolio. On Jan. 5, ebrary will release a new book database for public libraries. Public Library Complete is a fully searchable online database of more than 5,100 full-text books, maps, and other documents from more than 90 publishers that cover both professional and educational subject areas. Public Library Complete aggregates eight individual databases that can also be purchased separately: Business & Personal Finance; Careers & Professional Development; Computers & Technology; Arts & Literature; Education & Study; History; Philosophy, Religion, & Spirituality; and Psychology & Self-Help.

On Jan. 5, ebrary will also release two new business research databases from D&B and Harris InfoSource, a D&B subsidiary. The new D&B International Business Reports provides simultaneous, multiuser access to three of D&B's most popular products: D&B's Country Report (80 reports), Country RiskLine (130 monthly reports), and Export Guides (200 reports). The Harris InfoSource Industry and Manufacturing Reports currently includes more than 300 updated reports that give a comprehensive overview of major U.S. industry sectors and individual companies.

In 2003, ebrary launched two other publisher-branded databases that augment its business and technical offerings. It partnered with the Society of Manufacturing Engineers to offer SME Source, a database with more than 4,000 individual book chapters, journal articles, and technical papers that's anchored by the nine-volume Tool and Manufacturing Engineers Handbook series. ebrary also added Datamonitor Industry Reports, a resource with more than 2,000 titles.

"2003 was a great success for ebrary and our customers, as measured by increased demand in the marketplace, an almost perfect renewal rate, a significant increase in the breadth and depth of our titles, major enhancements to our technology, and a rapidly expanding number of end users," said Christopher Warnock, ebrary's CEO. "Taken together, these results validate our multiuser access model and its significant advantages over competitors' ‘single checkout' e-book and per-seat site licensing models. In 2004, we expect to continue to expand our databases and offerings to meet the increasing market demand we see."

ebrary has been focused on the academic library market, but now says it's busily developing new products for public and special libraries and will be rolling out new products in 2004 for the corporate library market.

While ebrary concentrates on these markets with its premium, valued-added service, other consumer-oriented book-search deals made news in 2003 as well. Amazon's Search Inside the Book feature accesses the cover-to-cover content of 120,000 books from close to 200 publishers, with the goal, of course, to sell books ( Google recently announced it's testing a book-search service that indexes excerpts and dust-jacket material from a small number of books at ( Google is also testing the indexing of OCLC WorldCat records, so searchers can identify books and holding libraries ( Actually, it was a pretty interesting year after all.

ebrary is exhibiting at ALA's Midwinter Meeting, Jan. 9-12 in San Diego. The company invites visitors to stop by Booth 861 and enter to win a free annual subscription to either the Academic Complete or Public Library Complete database. You can also enter online Wouldn't winning make a nice start to the new year for some struggling library?

Paula J. Hane is a freelance writer and editor covering the library and information industries. She was formerly Information Today, Inc.’s news bureau chief and editor of NewsBreaks.

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