Monday, March 13, 2006

Compaq founder pushes for academic library online

From CNET News

CARLSBAD, Calif.--Ever wonder where Compaq founder Rod Canion is? He's with Questia Media, which wants to bring a university-class library to a high school near you.

The Houston-based company is gathering academic and textbook publishers like John Wiley and Sons and putting their works on the Web. For $20 a month, or $100 for a full-year subscription, individuals can get full access to peer-review articles, textbooks and other academic publications online. High schools can access the database too, for about 85 percent of the cost, said CEO Troy Williams.

At the moment, the roughly 150,000 Questia subscribers can download 65,000 books accessible through the site, he said.

A substantial portion of the material available through Questia is copyright and published with permission of the copyright holders. Still, the company must negotiate through a variety of contingencies with publishers. Giving high school libraries discount subscriptions, which all students at the school can access, is easy: Academic publishers generally want students to be interested in research, and the students wouldn't subscribe to most of the publications (or buy the textbooks) offered through Questia anyway, Williams said. The hope is that high schoolers who used the service through their school library will become individual subscribers eventually.

Selling subscriptions to college libraries is different. Many academic publishers rely on selling subscriptions to fellow institutions. Those deals, however, are being hammered out. Google, for example, has cut deals to publish the works in the libraries of a few select universities but the plan has run into controversy because of protests from authors, who claim that the university libraries do not have the legal right to let the search giant republish copyright material.

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