Do publishers take electronic books seriously?

A while ago John Dupuis did a great post on Ebook business models. In the comments a few additional suggestions were made to improve on his really well thought list of bullet points. Today I ran into yet another addition for his list.

Elsevier send their fourth installment of the Books Connect newsletter. As a Life Science institution we are certainly interested in their new Encyclopedia of Ecology. When you follow the link to the website for this reference work you end up on a site that only refers to the paper edition of this encyclopedia. No mention of an electronic version. This explains the title in the post, does this publisher take ebooks seriously?

When we want to grow the acceptance of ebooks, the reference works are the ideal place to start. Quick reference, fact finding, ideal in the electronic format. Exactly what our users scattered all over Wageningen and far beyond want.

Okay, backtrack for a moment. Look again at the BooksConnect newsletter. There is this banner add on the newsletter that says “available 2008 on ScienceDirect“. have a look at that and you’ll be disappointed again. The encyclopedia is not to be found on the page for reference works nor on the page of forthcoming reference works. Simply it is not there. Which is a pity.

So another bullet on the list for John would be:

  • e-books should be published on time. They should become at least available when the print edition is published. Preferably an electronic edition should be available before the paper edition comes out.

Consistent search interfaces, oh so difficult

One of my annoyances of searching for journals in Web of Science has always been that in standard search you have to fill in the full journal title but when you search for a journal in the cited ref search you have to use the abbreviated jounal title. A very inconvenient way of doing searches in the same database, albeit a different index. Explain this in your classes on searching databases. Another small grunt in this respect is that the title abbreviations between or within different ISI products is not the same either so you are always left guessing.

This afternoon I had to check since when the Journal of Environmental Planning and Management has been indexed in Web of Science. The answer was found quite quickly. The journal only started this year to be covered by WoS. So I had to look up some citation data using a cited ref search. Easier said than done.

Using the official journal abbreviation list on the cited ref search the journal appeared not be there. But it has been indexed on WoS since the beginning of this year already. Moving over to the new interface, assuming they would have updated matters there a lot more, brought me some more disappointment. The journal list in the new interface was not up to date either.

Guessing the abbreviation I arrived quickly at the following abbreviations being used within WoS for the same journal:


This list is certainly not exhaustive, but just illustrates my point of different abbreviations for the same journal (how do they ever calculate the right impact fact you might wonder?).

My idea is that when you have such a major overhaul of you web platform that you look at the search ergonomy as well. Full title search in the normal search and abbreviated title search in the cited ref search should have been a problem reported back to ISI headquarters by all marketeers and sales people on many different occasions. So this little annoyance should have been rectified in latest extensive product overhaul.

That journal abbreviation lists are not up to date with the latest additions of newly indexed periodicals is a sign of very sloppy maintenance of your databases. For an important database such as Web of Science I would have expected higher standards of accuracy.

It seems that the competition has not yet fully woken up this giant in database land. Please Thomson wake up!

Elsevier launches 2collab

First a disclaimer. I have been playing around with 2collab for some time already since my library is a developing partner for Scopus (Elsevier). My first reaction to the initiative by Elsevier to develop 2collab was a bit hesitant. I agree with David Rothman that there are already plenty (scientific) bookmarking tools available. However none of the exisiting bookmarking tools have satisfied my needs to date. Certainly not, even though I use that quite regularly.

On my Dutch blog I have pleaded a couple of times already for thomson to develop a good hybrid between EndNote (or any other reference manager from their stable) and a bookmarking site like They have come up with EndNote web, which I consider as a complete disaster. I love the ease of adding bookmarks to, but really need the quality output and versatility for each and any “journal style” to produce a sufficient reference list of bibliographic references and websites alike. 2collab does a fair job at that. It is partly based in ScienceDirect and Scopus as well, and therefore imports easily from those two databases (of course the range of databases needs to e expanded). Apart from that they have those similar buttons which offers to import any websource from your web browser.

On the export site, 2collab shows some above average options as well. Albeit is is not a reference manager formatting for any journal style yet. They offer a RIS export, and that helps a lot. Of course Unalog and CiteUlike does that as well as well. At the end of the day we are therefore still dependent on EndNote (or any other reference manager) for producing the versatile output I need. But I do hope that Elsevier sees here some scope for further development.

Another question is of course the market Elsevier wants to address with a product like this. My impression is that social tools or bookmarking haven’t really taken on at the academy yet. So they are still way ahead of the curve. Interestingly, an investigation at the university of Amsterdam showed that most scientist cared about secrecy more and were not interested in sharing their resources whatsoever.

What I found interesting from the last developments in 2collab that they were expanding the networking opportunities as well. Making groups, adding profile information and sharing information. I know it is contradictory to what they found in Amsterdam, but for our students working in groups it would be a welcome tool. We only have to wait a short while before we will see the integration possibilities with other Open Social applications. I think, and hope.

I see definitely some interesting devlopments going on here. Elsevier 2.0 appears to be somewhere around the corner. They seem to have developed a better, more versatile bookmarking tool than most scientific bookmarking tools too date. If they keep up their commitment, it will be a very interesting tool to watch and play with and a company to watch too.

Some other reviews of 2collab are posted by SciLib and bbgm

THES rankings, manipulation or optimization?

From the university newspaper of Groningen we get some interesting insights in the way Groningen University has optimized their data for submission to the THES rankings. Deemed not to be important, the rector nevertheless wanted Groningen University to score better in the THES-QS rankings. For the rector, the first notation in the top 200 of the THES rankings, 173 to be exactly, was a good reason to celebrate with his subordinates.

What did they do? They concentrated on the questions of the most favourable number of students. The number of PhD students was a number they could play with. In the Netherlands PhD students are most often employed as faculty, albeit they are students as well to international standards. They contemplated on the position of the researchers in the University hospital. This would increase the number of staff considerably and thus lower the student/faculty ratio, but on the other hand this could have an important effect on the number of citations per research staff as well. Increases in staff number will lower the citations per staff. Which is detrimental to the overall performance. However, if they only could guarantee that citations to hospital staff were included in the citation counts as well?

So in Groningen they have exercised through some scenarios of number of students, number of staff, student/staff ratio and citations/staff ratio to arrive at the best combination to enhance their performance. I really do wonder if the contact between Groningen and QS -the consultants establishing the rankings- did also lead to the improvement of the search for citations by including the University Hospital for the university results. It is known from research by CWTS that searches for papers from all parts of the university are notoriously difficult. Especially to include the papers produced by staff from the teaching hospitals. In Groningen they have the feeling that it helped what they did in their contacts with QS. Well, at least it resulted in a nice picture on their university profile page.

Optimization or manipulation? It is only a thin line. If you only could make sure that all staff of your university would use the proper name of the institution in the authors affiliation. The university would gain a lot.

NTvG not so open access

The Dutch medical journal Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Geneeskunde, indexed in PubMed, celebrates this year its 150th anniversary this year. Quite an old lady. All its archives have been scanned and made available for subscribers for about two years now. The NTvG is the weekly professional journal for general practitioners in the Netherlands. About 80% of Dutch GPs have their personal subscription on this journal.

Yesterday is was anounced in de Volkskrant, that NTvG will open up its archives to the public. De Volkskrant went on to state that NTvG is following the example of the leading international medical journals with opening up of its archives. Well maybe. There is a catch though. The archive is only open for articles older than five years. With a moving wall of five years before opening it’s archives, one can’t really speak of an OA journal.

On the website of NTvG no mention of this news whatsoever. So far only this announcement in the well respected newspaper de Volkskrant. This story will be continued I believe.