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Ingenta Beta Tests New Interface
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Posted On June 7, 2004
Early this autumn as the academic year starts for its many clients, Ingenta, Inc., the online distributor of academic journal literature and document delivery service, will replace its existing online research interfaces—http://www.ingenta.com and http://www.ingentaselect.com—with IngentaConnect. The new interface will provide more reliability and scalability to handle rapid expansion of usage, which runs as high as 8 million user sessions a month on the two existing services. It will also support more access and authentication rules for the different business models used by Ingenta's over 260 publishers. The newly designed architecture can also handle more content types, including books, reports, and statistics, from one starting point for all Ingenta-driven services. New features will be phased in throughout the summer.

The split between Ingenta offerings stemmed from past acquisitions: IngentaSelect from CatchWord and Ingenta.com from the original Ingenta service, based on the BIDS service out of the University of Bath, combined with the fax and Ariel document delivery of UnCover. Ingenta currently has registered some 17,000 libraries and research institutions for its services. Those interested in testing the new interface can do so at http://www.ingentaconnect.com. Many of the new features will be available only to those subscribing to the IngentaConnect Premium service and paying a premium charge.

The simplified navigation has received extensive user testing already. Ingenta executives recognized that users often resist surprises, even when they're nice ones. The company plans on easing users away from familiar old interfaces into the more powerful new ones. Ingenta is issuing progress reports to all its customers—publishers, libraries, and researchers—on new developments in the integration program. It also has integration news postings on both sites.

One new feature, flagging results to subscriptions by connecting to library holdings, is not available in the current beta version. According to Geoffrey Bilder, chief technology officer at Ingenta's U.K. headquarters, result displays adjusted to show only what a user has access to will appear when Ingenta replaces the search lists section. Some features are already available and have been since 2003, e.g., marked lists and tables of contents.

Upcoming improvements will include reference linking between citations within documents to full-text documents in the Ingenta collection and elsewhere. Bilder pointed to the superior metadata generation used in extracting references and resolving links. "We are constantly polling for new places to resolve and then hot them up. It's not just CrossRef." When asked whether such linking would include open access sources, Bilder said that Ingenta would include such sources "if they came from other major aggregators or sources, such as PubMed or BioMed Central."

New features scheduled for phasing in throughout the summer include enhanced personalization. For example, users will have the ability to subscribe to RSS feeds. New content forms will even include statistical reports generated dynamically from publisher Web sites in response to user specifications. Administrative improvements will offer more control to publishers. Bilder said: "In the early days, publishers just tossed their data at us. They just wanted us to take care of getting it online. Now they increasingly want to manage the data, e.g., to correct metadata on their own, to build supplementary files, to load and backtrack articles. So we're building in publisher tools that let them take more control."

For library users, advanced authentication will allow multiple site logins. Users will be able to operate more flexibly away from a networked facility and even acquire "different identities." According to Bilder, the new accounting and authentication service will "take into account things like multiple user IDs and multiple subscriptions. For example, on many systems we encounter personal subscriptions and institutional subscriptions. The new service allows us to create hierarchical identities. It will identify Professor X as coming from his institution and also from the Economics Department and maybe his status as a remote user. We will be able to track a union of rights to the system, child parent relationships. Alternative billing could let users log in as individual subscribers. We will find the most equitable way for each person to reach content." Users can expect to see subscriptions activated within 24 hours of authorization by the publisher or, in some cases, by Ingenta acting as the publisher's agent.

Library administrators will be able to get combined usage statistics. Doug Wright, vice president of Ingenta's library division, pointed to numerous improved flexibilities in this area. The new statistics gathering will allow for a variety of factors, according to Wright, covering "specific campuses, units, user clusters, corporate libraries with different sites around the world." The new statistics apply to libraries using deposit accounts with Ingenta.

Though many of the new features, such as searching and browsing navigation improvements, will apply to all Ingenta users, some will only be available to those subscribing to IngentaConnect Premium, e.g., subscription activation management, searching within subscribed content, library branding customization, and advanced usage statistics. The Premium service also includes a 20-user alerting license for the table of contents and keyword search alerts across 28,000 publications. IngentaConnect Premium costs $495 (or £280.00) annually.

The information architecture underlying IngentaConnect, designed to combine the best features of both existing Ingenta services, will also facilitate future changes and revisions. In developing the new platform, Ingenta is abandoning its Rserver proprietary software, referred to by Leigh Dodds, engineering manager at Ingenta U.K., as "an entirely homegrown software solution" and "a venerable piece of software ... in use for some time—in fact, it actually predates the inception of the World Wide Web." (Imagine!) According to Dodds, the new architecture—referred to internally as ICE—is an n-tier Java J2EE application running on JBoss and Jetty, two open source tools, reaching a backend running an Oracle database with searching by BASIS. The shift to JBoss, completed in 2003, involved moving away from the Weblogic system underlying Ingenta.com. Bilder found the open source software "extremely reliable and extremely flexible."

Bilder indicated that other features in Ingenta's future might include automatic topic extraction and clustering. "Our goal is to do what is scalable and what we can provide at a decent price." Future market targets might include institutional repositories or even open access archives, according to Bilder. Ingenta already supplies an array of hosting services to publishers that include data conversion, secure hosting, access control, and distribution services. Repositories and Open Access simply represent people with different business models in Bilder's eyes.

Ingenta supplies collection management and document delivery to some 13 million articles from over 6,100 online publications, as well as fax and Ariel (a proprietary fax-to-computer document transmission format) delivery of some 28,000 publications. It has recently seen a jump in usage attributed to new full-text indexing by Google. In February, Google began indexing article titles, keywords, author names, and abstracts—the free metadata—on Ingenta.com at the rate of 20,000 to 30,000 pages per day. In March the crawler reached into all the full-text pages. The activation of the Googlebot contributed to a record 5.4 million user sessions on Ingenta.com in April, according to an Ingenta spokesperson. Users coming to Ingenta through Google still have to prove their "appropriate copy" right to see the article described in the displayed abstracted citation, through authentication via IP address or username and password to a subscription, or pay-per-view access. Initially the pilot project was limited to a selection of publishers, but Bilder said they are now "expanding to everyone but publishers who choose to opt out." So far, only one publisher—E. Schweizerbart—has refused Google access. By the end of the month, Ingenta expects to have all its publications except those from that publisher "Google-d."

Ingenta clients or prospective clients might do well to participate in the beta test of IngentaConnect. When I looked at it, the author field seemed singularly unforgiving and non-intuitive, at least for an Amazon-addicted end-user audience. Some of the problems stem from the old BASIS search engine, according to Bilder. The company plans to replace it soon with an open source search engine called Lucene. Ingenta looks forward to hearing from users in time to make real improvements.


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

Email Barbara Quint
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