Database News: Updates, New Products, New Subscription Plans

Fall is a big season in publishing, and database producers have gotten in on the act, recently announcing new products, revamps, and, in the case of JSTOR, a new way for researchers to gain access. For more news on the database front, watch for our annual reference supplement, coming your way with the November 1 issue of LJ.

Elsevier recently unveiled a redesign of its Knovel platform for engineers. The platform offers 4,000-plus reference books and databases from technical publishers and societies in 30 subject areas such as biochemistry, biology, and biotechnology; industrial engineering and operations management; and sustainable energy and development. Users can also take advantage of Elsevier-produced information called “Knovel Critical Content,” which provides material that is not available from Elsevier’s publisher and learned-society partners.

The revamp, launched on Sept. 9, emphasizes data searches, matching the workflow and needs of engineers. The new Data Search Wizard (see a video of how it works) allows users to “Retrieve [and interact with] data found in Knovel’s interactive graphs, equations and tables,” searching by material or substance name, property, or a combination of those elements. Also new is an increased facility for collaboration: users can “tag members of their work group or student team and share folders with links to saved titles, content and search queries.” Recognizing that engineers work with many different systems, including proprietary ones, the new version of Knovel offers APIs (application programming interfaces) that allow the product to “talk” to those other tools. As it has all along, Knovel provides handy extras such as an online unit converter.

Infobase has announced a relaunch of its “database of record,” World News Digest, which was named one of the Best Databases of 2011. The redesign emphasizes access to topics—climate change, gun control, immigration policy, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and more—but the news hub still offers more granular searching of current news and “fast facts” and statistics.

The company’s Today’s Science database has had a makeover too, also highlighting topic access, this time to science materials for a middle- and high-school audience. As well as the expected scientific articles the database offers a series of “Conversations with Scientists,” with material accompanied by correlations to Common Core, state, and national science education standards. Students completing papers will appreciate the product’s inclusion of MLA, Chicago, and APA format citations. Both Today’s Science and World News Digest now offer Google translate on every page and a content read-aloud option.

Not-for-profit organization ITHAKA, which also includes Ithaka S+R and Portico, this week announced that JSTOR, its flagship database of 1500 books and journals, would be made available to individual subscribers through a program called JPASS. Some of the 7000 institutions worldwide that offer in-house and remote access to the database are public libraries, so that many unaffiliated researchers already have free access to the material, and ITHAKA also allows researchers to view up to three articles a month free using its “Register & Read” plan. Fortunately for libraries, the free options are prominently explained to visitors who read the “For Individuals” portion of JSTOR’s website.

Oxford University Press
Oxford University Press’s (OUP) succinctly named “Very Short Introductions” (VSI) series of books is now available as a database. The 358 books (the majority of them covering arts and humanities, science and mathematics, and social sciences) include such titles as Animal Rights: A Very Short Introduction, Gandhi: A Very Short Introduction, and Symmetry: A Very Short Introduction. A tab within the database leads to the disaggregated material presented in chapter chunks. VSI content is cross-searchable with other OUP content to which a library subscribes. The print books will continue to be published with the same frequency.

OUP has also announced another product for social science researchers, Oxford Constitutions of the World, which houses “regularly updated, fully translated English-language versions of all of the world’s constitutions.” Subnational constitutions are included as well—of special sovereignties and disputed areas, for example—and all documents are accompanied by commentary and comparative constitutional law monographs. The material is searchable by jurisdiction as well as by standard access methods such as keyword and subject.

Henrietta Verma About Henrietta Verma

Henrietta Verma is Senior Editorial Communications Specialist at NISO, the National Information Standards Organization, Baltimore, and was formerly the reviews editor at Library Journal.


  1. Jerome says:

    Hi Henrietta, thanks for the review! Cheers!