eReviews Sage Knowledge | November 1, 2012

SAGE 

Content SAGE Knowledge is the publisher’s recently launched eBook platform. It launched with approximately 2500 titles; most of the works included are single author and edited volumes, although the site also includes five dictionaries, 158 encyclopedias, and 263 handbooks. The full text is still being added for some titles; in these cases, users will see a message that says, “Look for this title coming soon in 2012.”

The majority of the material is from the past 10 years, and only 66 books have copyright dates prior to 1995. The content comes from four major publishing imprints, SAGE, SAGE Reference, Corwin, and CQ Press. Like the periodical content from those publishers, the books are largely from the social science disciplines.

Books are separated into ten major categories: traditional social sciences including sociology (482 titles); psychology (279); political science (168); and communication (228); disciplines that start to creep into the natural sciences, such as health care (232) and environmental science (89); and professional topics such as business (341), counseling (204), education (473), and criminal justice (137).

Many of the titles can be used for professional development, and possibly as textbooks for college or graduate school classes. A minority of titles include original research. The SAGE Knowledge platform provides for unlimited simultaneous users, creating opportunities for teachers and professors to use these titles in class or as course texts.

SAGE Knowledge provides important tools for libraries including MARC records and COUNTER reports. DOIs are provided for complete titles and book chapters (or reference work entries) making access simple and helping faculty and librarians create links to important content.


Usability
As in most ebook platforms, users can access content via both searching and browsing. The platform homepage includes a basic search box with links to an advanced search screen, as well as links to allow users to browse for content by subject, author, or book type.

Both the basic and advanced search boxes search the full text of all titles by default. On the advanced search screen, users can limit their query to just titles or keywords. The advanced search screen also allows limiting of results to particular content types (dictionaries, encyclopedias, etc.), particular publishers, or particular years. Both the basic and advanced search boxes support boolean operators, the “*” truncation, and the “?” wildcard symbol. The basic search on the homepage and the search box that appears on all pages of the platform suggests terms once users start typing.

Once a search is executed, researchers have the ability to further refine their results, which is convenient for those of us who tend to forget to set limits prior to executing a search. Filters include content type (books, encyclopedias, etc.), publication date, subject category, and keyword. Users are also presented with links to additional SAGE products including SAGE journals and the SAGE Research Methods platform. In both cases, users without access to these products will see item titles and descriptions but will be unable to access the full text of the materials.

This is one of several confusing features of the database that may present customers with content to which they don’t have access. While the very first filter available to users on the search results screen is the ability to limit results to those titles “Available to me,” the default is to view all content. This can lead to dead ends when a user can see a title but not view the full text and can lead to confusion and frustration for both users and librarians. This is only an issue when using the platform directly; users who enter the content through, for example, their library’s OPAC, will encounter no such problem.

The default display for search results is by relevance, although the SAGE ranking algorithm appears to place reference works (dictionaries and encyclopedias) above other kinds of materials. Users can re-sort by title or by publication date.

Search terms are highlighted in the results list, and a brief snippet of the full text containing the terms is included, although this is inconsistent, and search terms are not highlighted after an advanced search. After clicking on a title, the user’s search terms are highlighted within the full text.

The interface for reading the full text is easy to use. Books are presented as in-line HTML—no in-browser viewer or external viewer is needed. This allows users to employ the built-in features of their browser to increase or decrease the size of the text, and the platform also allows some limited zooming of text size. Researchers can search within the text of a single title, download a PDF of a chapter, and add a title or chapter to customizable lists available.

The citation features of the platform are well done, allowing users to preview a fully formatted citation in the popular styles, as well as export the citation data to common citation managers.


Pricing
Content can be purchased in subject collections or by year, and reference works are available title-by-title. Prices are dependent upon the size of the institution and its research intensity. Individual subject collections start at $4000.


Verdict
Content on the SAGE Knowledge platform is easy to use but expensive. As noted, librarians may want to encourage users to access content via OPACs or other platforms, rather than the native SAGE platform due to the confusion over which titles are available. Collaboration with faculty may reveal opportunities to use these titles in the classroom. The content will primarily be of interest to academic libraries and some special libraries for professional development purposes.

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Bonnie Swoger About Bonnie Swoger

Bonnie J.M. Swoger is the Science and Technology Librarian at SUNY Geneseo’s Milne Library and the author of the Undergraduate Science Librarian blog, undergraduatesciencelibrarian.org. Readers can contact her at swoger@geneseo.edu.

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