Books at JSTOR
JSTOR; http://about.jstor.org/content-on-jstor-books. To request a free trial please email firstname.lastname@example.org
By Cheryl LaGuardia
CONTENT Books at JSTOR currently offers approximately 22,500 scholarly ebooks, many from academic presses including those of the Australian National University ePress, Catholic University of America, Central European University, Columbia University, Edinburgh University, Hong Kong University, Institute for Aegean Prehistory (INSTAP), McGill–Queen’s University, Princeton University, and University of California, as well as the publishers Boydell & Brewer, RAND Corporation, and Russell Sage Foundation. The full title list can be downloaded from ow.ly/sMezE. New publishers and titles are continually added to the file.
JSTOR ebooks are integrated with archival and current journals on the JSTOR platform, so that all content can be searched at once; searches can also be limited to books only. Book chapters are viewable online or may be downloaded as PDF files. Citations can be saved, emailed, or exported, and searches can be saved in no-cost MyJSTOR accounts. OCLC MARC records are freely provided for all titles, and interlibrary loan of the ebooks is permitted. Preservation of the content is provided through Portico, the digital archive service of ITHAKA, the organization that owns JSTOR.
USABILITY I’ll take the basic search as a given: you know it and so do your users. Let me describe how the search experience changes now that books are available here.
On the home screen, the simple search box is labeled “Journals, primary sources, and now BOOKS.” There’s still a link to advanced search, along with a link to beta search. Below that are found links to browse by subject, with the choices area studies, arts, business and economics, history, humanities, law, medicine and allied health, science and mathematics, and social sciences. When I clicked on social sciences, a drop-down list of subjects appeared (anthropology, etc.). Choosing library science revealed a page with four tabs: all content, journals, books, and pamphlets, with the contents automatically displaying for each when it is selected. Browsing is easy; it will take a while for larger subject collections, but it’s easy to access. One of the nicest aspects of this arrangement is that the different types of materials are identified so clearly for novice researchers.
I pulled up Mary George’s book, The Elements of Library Research: What Every Student Needs To Know; the main page loaded quickly and displayed the cover, publication information (publisher, ebook ISBN, etc.), a stable URL for the item in JSTOR, a short book description, a link to “search for book reviews on JSTOR” (in two clicks I reached Eric Petersen’s review of the title), and the table of contents. It takes 16 downloads to read the full text of the entire book, but that’s the nature of the ebook beast and not particular to JSTOR. Another search, for “edward porter alexander” quickly found 35 relevant books, one of which (Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg! by George C. Rable) I’m going to start reading as soon as I finish this review (a one-click “Search for book reviews on JSTOR” brought up seven JSTOR reviews in less time than it took me to describe the process).
Since browsing is not what most users will do, next I searched for books on the topic Arabic translational literature and got 493 results. When the results displayed, I clicked the books tab to limit the results and got 97 items. A look at the first item, Disarming Words: Empire and the Seductions of Translation in Egypt by Shaden M. Tageldin, shows that JSTOR selects the “Most Relevant Chapters” of the book based on the number of times the search term appears in each chapter and places them at the beginning of the page. While perusal of the entire table of contents led me to believe other chapters would be just as relevant (for example, “OVERTURE: Cultural Imperialism Revisited: Translation, Seduction, Power”), it was useful to know where my search terms were showing up most frequently. I downloaded the index to check for certain terms, and that convinced me that this book was right on target for my search. It was fast and easy to enlarge and navigate through text.
Having an extensive database of articles and books integrated into a single search and delivery system is marvelous. JSTOR has created a system that makes it very easy to find different kinds of pertinent material and then access it quickly. I do love having the book reviews in JSTOR immediately linked into each individual title.
PRICING Flexible purchasing models are available for JSTOR, including title-by-title selection; subject collections on language and literature, business and economics, film studies, history, philosophy, political science, religion, science, and sociology; customizable subject collections; and a demand-driven acquisition model. All choices include perpetual access; subscriptions are unavailable at present. Discounts are available to institutions based on institution size and participation in JSTOR’s archive journal collections.
The unlimited-user purchase model allows unlimited concurrent users, unlimited DRM-free downloads, and unlimited printing and copying/pasting, but unlimited DRM-free access is not available for all titles. Approximately 60 percent are available in the unlimited-user model, while all are available in the single-user model, with 30 chapter downloads annually included with the price of the book; printing and copying/pasting is not allowed.
VERDICT Take a look at the full title list referenced above—if the books from these publishers are relevant to your researchers, you’re going to want to purchase Books at JSTOR. This is one e-resource that will certainly be popular.
Cheryl LaGuardia is Research Librarian for the Widener Library at Harvard University and author of Becoming a Library Teacher (Neal-Schuman, 2000). Readers can contact her at email@example.com
ProQuest Research Companion ProQuest; proquest.com/en-US/catalogs/databases/detail/rescomp.shtml
By Bonnie J.M. Swoger
CONTENT As more students take online courses and information literacy librarians struggle to reach all patrons, the need for online tutorials and instructional information has risen. ProQuest Research Companion offers tutorials on information literacy concepts and basic writing instruction and research tools aimed at helping students to find, evaluate, and use information.
Each of the nine tutorials (called “Learning Modules”) consists of a series of videos, a checklist of steps necessary to accomplish the intended outcomes, a list of vocabulary terms, and a list of the Research Companion tools best suited to help with the relevant step. The videos are under five minutes each and feature line drawings and animated text. A transcript of each video is available; the text is a comparable substitute for the video. The narrators offer clear explanations of concepts, as well as tips and warnings.
Learning Modules are divided into three main categories. The “Find Information” category includes the topics “Where do I start?” “How do I choose a topic?” and “Where do I find Information?” “Evaluate Information” lists the topics, “How do I evaluate sources?” and “What counts as evidence?” The final category, “Use Information,” includes “How do I write a thesis statement?” “How do I organize my argument?” “How do I avoid plagiarism and find my own voice?” and “What do I look for when I revise?”
While the modules don’t cover as many information literacy concepts as some librarians might like, the product provides a solid introduction to the most important issues and firmly places library research within the content of writing. I wish the tutorials included a bit of humor. While the content is of high quality, the videos are also a bit boring.
Research Companion also includes a series of tools to assist students in writing their papers. The quality and usefulness of these resources is highly variable. The first tool presented, a “Topic Aid,” is problematic. Users are encouraged to do broad searches in order to find overview information, and the resources that turned up lack source information. While an ISSN was provided for one journal article, I had to use Google to discover the journal title. Some encyclopedia or dictionary content doesn’t include titles at all. It is to be hoped that ProQuest will add quality metadata to these resources in the future, as promised.
The “Search Aid” tool could be useful to many students and information literacy instructors. Users enter a search term, and the tool suggests additional terms along with links to a Google search and the user’s library’s database page.
Three tools are associated with the “Evaluate Information” topic, which will help students to evaluate the quality of books, websites, and journals they find. The book and journal evaluators help students determine whether the material is scholarly. Students enter a title or URL (for online books and articles) and receive information about the item in question. If the title comes from a known academic publisher or journal, the results will boldly indicate it. The website evaluator provides students with some basic information about a site and, more important, helps them determine when they are looking at a journal article or a book online, rather than just a website.
A basic citation generator (MLA and APA) is included, but it isn’t as good (or complete) as other freely available citation generators. A revision aid allows users to paste in text to review their grammar. I pasted a draft of this review into the revision tool, and it identified some run-on sentences and a useless adverb or “empty phrase.”
USABILITY The product is easy to master and provides beneficial information about progress through the tutorials. The homepage helpfully lists each learning module, along with the estimated time to complete it. Progress is expressed as a percentage of the total time (for registered users), and the date the module was last accessed is included.
The research tools are always ready where needed. On the homepage, the tools are listed next to the associated learning module, and related tools are listed at the bottom of the module checklist. All of the tools are available via a drop-down menu from any page on the site.
PRICING Annual fees are based on several factors including FTE and the number of libraries included. Larger universities with 12,000 FTE would pay approximately $5,000, whereas the cost for a high school with 800 FTE would be less than $1,500.
VERDICT Proquest Research Companion is geared toward upper-level high school students and entry-level college students. While less expensive options are available, the tutorials would be a good addition to a traditional composition class, and the research tools could be useful for any entry-level college course that requires research-based writing.
Bonnie J.M. Swoger is 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 firstname.lastname@example.org