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Mighty Linkout Machine Flexes Document-Retrieval Muscle
Posted On June 18, 2009
If your institution uses a traditional link resolver to aid in document retrieval, it's a pretty good bet that you are still missing opportunities to save money and take full advantage of your subscriptions to journals and other repositories of information. Until now, there hasn't been a whole heck of a lot you could do about it. Reprints Desk ( is hoping to change all that, though, with its new offering: Mighty Linkout Machine.

Officially released on June 12, Mighty Linkout Machine is an article-retrieval solution that Reprints Desk says, "enables information resource managers to improve article retrieval speed, processes, and pay-per-view cost savings, while achieving 100% article-level linkouts to PDF journal content." Link resolvers use algorithms to determine whether a user has access to certain types of information, such as journal articles, essentially to stop people and organizations from paying twice for the same information and to stop unauthorized persons from tapping into digital sources they have no right to use. In the past, users of this type of technology encountered one major problem-the technology only worked if you submitted a request online. Researchers who prefer to submit requests via fax, email, or any other way don't benefit from the link resolver. Companies can end up not getting the most out of subscriptions to journals, databases, and other information sources and paying twice or more often for the same content.

Reprints Desk uses a different approach, though. No matter which way a user chooses to submit a request, Mighty Linkout Machine uses a hybrid process of automated sourcing and "micro-tasks" to locate and send either an article-level e-holdings link or a document-delivery article back to the user. The process uses automated computer tasks and actual people to process requests, which also enables Reprints Desk to deal with all sorts of citation information-the good, the bad, and the ugly.

This represents something of a change in direction for Reprints Desk, which has traditionally focused on its core business of document delivery. It works sort of like iTunes, but instead of giving users access to music, Reprints Desk gives them pay-per-view access to things such as journal articles. According to Ian Palmer, head of marketing for Reprints Desk, "This changes our position in the marketplace. ... It links up different types of technologies that have never really been integrated before." The way Reprints Desk sees it, Mighty Linkout Machine is basically a mashup of the best the document-retrieval and link-resolver worlds have to offer.

Most of the change here will happen on the back end, though. Customers won't have to change the way they work, says Palmer. A customer will still submit a document request in whatever form he or she prefers, with as much or as little citation material as is available. Mighty Linkout Machine then takes over, "leveraging the system we already had in place," Palmer says. This is where the series of micro-tasks comes into play; humans and machines coming together to perform a series of very small tasks, from interpreting citations to delivering an actual PDF link to the user. Despite Reprints Desk's use of people in this process, Palmer says the delivery speed is not slowed down. He says the company still offers "best in class delivery speed because we've broken out the components into such specific micro-tasks." Once this part of the process is completed, users get an email, a link to subscribe to PDF content, a match in their print collection, or a link to download a document via a document delivery order.

"We're in the fortunate position of being a very young company," says Palmer of Reprints Desk. He calls the introduction of Mighty Linkout Machine "a bold move." The company is only about 3-years old with a low cost structure that, Palmer says, gives it the flexibility to "do things that would be against the better interest of many of our competitors. ... Customers can save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year."

"Many companies don't have a way to figure out what they have access to," says Palmer. He estimates that about 70% of corporations don't use a link resolver at all and, therefore, don't get the most out of the journal subscriptions they pay for; they end up spending a lot more on document delivery than they should. He says Reprints Desk thinks this new offering will change the cost structure in the document-delivery world. By helping customers to save significant amounts of money, Reprints Desk aims to create customer loyalty while also acquiring new customers as expectations change.

"Document delivery has been a pretty stagnant category for many years," says Palmer. But he adds that over the past few years, things have been heating up again. "Document delivery is getting very interesting again with us and a very limited number of competitors. ... Things are integrating more. I think that's really going to be the theme over the next year or two."

Theresa Cramer is editor, EContent and Intranets.

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