Reference eReviews | Springer Book Archives | April 1, 2013

Springer Book Archives Springer

Content Springer has been busy. Alongside a brand-new look (and URL) for SpringerLink, its platform for journals and ebooks, the company recently unveiled a collection of titles previously unavailable electronically: Springer Book Archives.

At the moment, more than 37,000 books are housed in the archive, with over 100,000 to become available by the end of 2013. Titles come mostly from the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, with a few in medicine, professional studies, and the humanities and social sciences. Publication dates range from 1840 to 2004, and most content is in English or German.

Optical character recognition (OCR) was performed on scanned books, making the full text of each title available for searching. The scanned diagrams are clear and crisp. I was able to compare the quality of photographs in the archive to a print version of Jack Green and Nicholas M. Short’s 1971 Volcanic Landforms and Surface Features: A Photographic Atlas and Glossary, and found only a minor decrease in image quality.

Springer’s metadata for books and book chapters on the description pages is excellent, which will make life easier for students and librarians alike. Most book chapters have brief descriptions, reference lists, author affiliations, and other details available before a chapter PDF is downloaded.

The archive comes with free MARC records and COUNTER reports. Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) are also included for individual chapters and complete titles, enabling easy access.

Usability Users reach this content by several mechanisms. MARC records will provide direct access from library catalogs, DOIs will enable quick OpenURL look ups, and users can directly browse or search the SpringerLink site. The most important aspect of the archive’s usability is that the books are available chapter-by-chapter as DRM-free PDFs, with no limits on simultaneous users. As a result, this ebook platform is one of the most versatile I have seen. While users cannot mark up content directly within the platform, they can download it, use a PDF reader to highlight and annotate, print full chapters, and move things about as much as they want. The PDFs work on almost any mobile device.

Material is searched via a simple-search box at the top of each page; beside that, a “settings” icon reveals links to an advanced search and to search help. Librarian-friendly options such as Boolean operators, truncation, and “near” functions are available, as well as user-friendly features (which are largely transparent to patrons) such as automatic stemming—e.g., a search for “mapping” returns results for “map.” It’s also possible to browse broad subject categories.

Once a user hits “enter” to conduct a search or clicks on a subject category, a list of available items appears, including books, chapters, and other subscribed SpringerLink content. Results are sorted by relevance, and subject category lists by publication date. By default, results include what Springer euphemistically calls “Preview-Only” content: articles, books, chapters, protocols, and reference works to which the library doesn’t have full-text access; also displayed are an abstract (where available) and a link to purchase the content. Prices ranged from $30 (chapters) to $40 (articles) in the items I examined. Users can filter out preview-only material, but this adds a step in getting to available content and could be confusing to novices.

The platform is full of small features that create a user-friendly reading experience. It’s easy to narrow results by content type, discipline, subdiscipline, publication, language, and publication date. On the description page for each chapter, the “Download PDF” link is prominent at the top of the page, and as the user scrolls down, the link remains availalbe. In order to help readers quickly decide if they want to download the content, an interesting “Look Inside” feature allows a preview of the first pages of the chapter, without downloading anything. Citations can be easily exported to a citation manager. The filtering links on search results pages include a visual indicator of the quantity of results that fall into each category. These small touches are very welcome.

Pricing The Springer Book Archives database is available as a package, although Springer promotional materials indicate that individual ebooks from the archive may be available for purchase at a later date. Pricing is based on the tiered system used to price other Springer online products, which is in turn based on research intensity.

Verdict Most suitable for academic libraries with strong STEM programs, though since these titles were not originally available as ebooks, there will most likely be some duplication with an existing print collection. This platform is one of the most versatile and user-friendly ebook platforms I’ve seen; I highly recommend it for libraries in need of this content.


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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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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