Why this information industry land grab is different

And why we should care. Gary Price of the Resource Shelf pointed to a news story today, that Ebsco has acquired two more research databases: Criminal Justice Abstracts and Communications Abstracts. For those of you who haven't been following, Ebsco has recently acquired Ageline (it is now not available for free), NetLibrary, research databases from OCLC, The Music Index Online, World Textiles, ExPub (ChemExpert)... oh and exclusive rights to some magazines.

What we can expect from this is that those other databases will no longer be available on multiple platforms. Folks who aren't librarians might not know that there are database producers and then those who sell the interfaces. The producer gets the articles and then has humans read them and assign terms from controlled vocabularies ( or has machines do the same). In the past, you could pick both - there might be two or three, say, kinesiology databases, and these might each be available on 3-4 platforms. The platforms were like DIALOG, FirstSearch, Ovid (SP and others), EbscoHost, Illumina (from CSA), Web of Knowledge, and maybe some others.

There would also be a couple different research databases on the same subject, so you could get the one with the best coverage, the best indexing, and the get it on the platform that worked the best. Ebsco has been pulling the things they've purchased from other platforms, first of all. Second, they are buying multiple databases covering the same area, so there's some thought that these will probably be combined at some point. So we're left with one database on one platform. Ebsco host seems to be doing *all* the buying - so if we can't get along with them, then we're screwed. If they want to jack their prices up. Well guess.

Ben Wagner maintains and others ask if this is a death spiral for Abstracting & Indexing services. We *know* that these tools are necessary for a thorough search of the literature - Google is ok for a few good items, but you can't be comprehensive with it.

Or, is this a necessary down-select to separate the strong from the weak? Will the few that make it through this be enough and will this enable them to consolidate and persevere?

4 responses so far

  • Joe says:

    This post got featured in American Libraries Direct, so you will probably get a bunch-o hits on this via http://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/al_direct/07212010 Congrats!
    Good post BTW.

  • Christina Pikas says:

    Saw that, thanks!

  • Elf Eye says:

    It may be a "down-select to separate the strong from the weak," but it does not follow that it is "necessary"--and it is certainly not desirable! I teach at a midsized state university under considerable financial pressure (deep budget cuts), and the thought of an Ebsco monopoly horrifies me because of the power it would give Ebsco to set prices. I wonder if any of the laws or regulations meant to target traditional industrial monopolies could be brought to bear on this case.

    On a lighter note, I was reading one of my student's research logs today, and several times she commented on how helpful the 'Liberians' had been. Bet you didn't know that there was an entire country dedicated to library and information science.

  • [...] that brings us up to the current part of the story. I’ve mentioned how Ebsco is really on a power grabbing mission. They own a bunch of databases. They are also [...]