Cybrargonians on the Net #12 Updated

By Terry Brainerd Chadwick, InfoQuest! Information Services

August column updated to reflect revised Dialog pricing.

On June 1st, 1998, the Dialog Corporation unveiled a new pricing policy that replaced their long-standing connect time model. Dialog offered it's subscribers two options: 1) a flat fee contract at a rate at least 10% higher than your average usage over the last three years -- minimum $75 per month; or 2) transactional pricing based upon CPU usage called DialUnits, with a minimum $75 usage fee each month. In the early months following the new pricing policy many transactional users found that their search costs increased to the extent that they actively started looking for other resources to meet their research needs. On September 1st, Dialog revised its pricing policy so that DialUnits will no longer be rounded up, but will be charged at the actual fractional amount used. Early reports indicate that many searches may now cost less than under connect time pricing.

This issue lists several articles that describe both the early and more recent effects of the new pricing policies, commercial alternatives to using Dialog, and some other resources that can be used instead of logging on to Dialog and incurring minimum DialUnit fees.


As soon as Dialog announced their new pricing structure, information industry writers geared up to provide comparisons between the old and new pricing structures so that searchers could gauge the impact on their budgets. The early articles published in ONLINE and Searcher magazines reported significant increases in prices since the imposition of DialUnits. Articles written since Dialog's decision to no longer round up DialUnits find that the average cost of a Dialog search has decreased.

Recent Articles

Dialog's DialUnits Revisited: Lassie Comes Home!
by Mary Ellen Bates, Bates Information Service, forthcoming in Searcher, November/December, 1998.
When Dialog stopped rounding up DialUnits, Mary Ellen Bates updated her September Searcher article that conducted an extensive pre- and post-DialUnits study. This time, she concluded that searches tend to cost less than they did under connect-time pricing. But, she also find's Dialog's pricing more unpredictable and variable than either Dow Jones Interactive or LEXIS-NEXIS.

Dialog's New Pricing: DialUnits Replace the Ticking Clock
by Carmen Miller, Carmen Miller Resources
This is an update of Carmen's earlier article comparing Dialog under DialUnits with Dow Jones Interactive and LEXIS-NEXIS. In both articles, she found that most Dialog searches cost less than the same search done in the other systems.

Early Articles

DIALing for Dollars: Dialog's New Pricing Structure and the DialUnit Debacle
by Reva Basch, ONLINE, September, 1998.
Written right after Dialog introduced DialUnits, Reva conducted extensive testing of the old and new pricing systems that are detailed in the article. She concluded that "DialUnits effectively impose a minimum fee on even the fastest and most uncomplicated search, resulting in a dramatic rise in cost."

Dialog's DialUnits: A Price Increase in Sheep's Clothing
by Mary Ellen Bates, Bates Information Service, Searcher, Vol. 6, #8, September 1998.
Mary Ellen also conducted an extensive pre- and post-DialUnits study when DialUnits were first introduced. One of her conclusions was that "costs for an entire search session generally cost at least 20% more than before."



The new pricing policy from Dialog has resulted in searchers looking for alternatives to it. Many of the databases available through Dialog are available through other sources, including directly through the database providers. There are also new information providers available, offering a mixture of free and fee-based sources. The first two citations are for compendiums of database resource alternatives.

Dialog Alternatives: A Power Searcher's Checklist
by Amelia Kassel, President, MarketingBASE, with technical assistance from Karen Anne Drebes, President, Hallmark Business Associates, Inc., published in Searcher, v.6, #8, September 1998.
This article compares the coverage of other commercial aggregator services -- Dow Jones Interactive, Lexis-Nexis, OCLCFirst Search, Ovid, Questel/Orbit, Silver Platter, STN -- with Dialog. There are two superb charts, by subject and alphabetically, that list Dialog file and whether they are covered by the other services.

Internet Resource Guide for Research and Exploration
by Mark Goldstein, International Research Center.
Portions of this guide are available on Mark's website free of charge, including the excellent list and links to Commercial Database Publishers and Providers, Market Research and Technology Consulting Organizations, Federal Government Internet Resources, and State/Regional Government Internet Resources. Mark's self-published book is available for sale on his website for $13.95.

Besides the "old-name" commercial aggregator services, there are a variety of new commercial resources and familiar names operating stand-alone services through the Internet. One of the major disadvantages between most of these services and the more traditional commercial services is that you generally retrieve citations and/or full records one at a time, rather than being able to get everything you want all at once. Still, they are great for the small, short, I just need to know one thing, type of search. The following are just a few of the alternatives to Dialog resources that are available.

Northern Lights
This service combines searching of web pages with a collection of 3,400 articles from commercial database services available on a fee-based basis. The full text of the articles range in cost from $1 to $4. There are a variety of payment plans, including pay-as-you-go. There are special Enterprise Accounts for professional use. This service can be used as a substitute source for checking article citations or quick searches to pick up bibliographic citations since the citations are free. The disadvantage is that citations must be viewed one-by-one, so you can't quickly get a whole list of citations in an easily readable format.

Companies Online
This site is a partnership between Dun & Bradstreet and Lycos that has information on more than 100,000 companies who have websites. Available information includes name, address, phone, Duns number, contact name, sales and employee range, website and email addresses, ownership status. You can also ask to receive a Dun & Bradstreet Business Background report for $20 (requires registration and a credit card).
Companies Online: http://www.companiesonline.com/
Dun & Bradstreet Business Background Reports: http://www.dnb.com/c-online/c-online.htm

Market Guide
This corporate resource focuses on the financial and stock aspects of companies. Its free resources include stock quotes and charts, selected income and balance sheet statements, ratio comparisons including betas, financial history, five year price performance history, and a company capsule with basic overview and executive information and a chart Price/Earnings ratios, share and dividend information, return on equity and assets, profitability, cash flow, and many other items.

This directory of more than 45,000 high technology companies also offers a mixture of free and pay-as-you-go fee-based information. Free information includes basic company capsules, searching for executives, and locating company names under various product categories. Fee-based information includes company and industry profiles, company list maker for mailing lists, and top 20 lists.

Although Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) information is available free from the SEC website, this service provides searching of the full text of all EDGAR documents, including current day and historical, and produces nicely formatted output for a much lower price than you can get through Dialog. Access is $10 per log on plus $1 per minute connect time and is available on a transaction or subscription basis. It requires downloading and usage of proprietary software.
LiveEdgar: http://www.gsionline.com/
SEC: http://www.sec.gov/

The National Library of Medicine's PubMed offers full access to Medline and includes a MeSH browser so that you can find the specific terms that will make your search more effective. For example, if you plug in the term "cancer" you will be told that "cancer is not a MeSH term, but it is associated with the MeSH term Neoplasms" and then are given the associated neoplasm MeSH tree from which to choose the term to plug into your query. Medline on Dialog doesn't offer this service.

This Chemical Abstracts website provides access to its services include full text chemical literature, Chemical Abstracts, Embase, Inspec, Biosis, and other databases through STN, STNEasy and SciFinder. The STN accounts are available on a pay-as-you-go basis.

UnCover Web
UnCover is a current awareness and document delivery service. It has a database of current article information from over 17,000 multidisciplinary journals that contains brief abstracts for over 7,000,000 articles which have appeared since Fall 1988. You can keyword search titles and summaries for no fee, and when you find what you want you can order copies of the articles to be faxed to you. UnCover Reveal is a fee-based automated alerting service that delivers the table of contents of your favorite periodicals directly to your email box. You can also create search strategies for to be alerted for articles on your favorite topics.



Public and academic libraries in Oregon have banded together through PORTALS and ORBIS to provide a number of database resources to their patrons. Many of these resources can only be accessed at the participating library; others are accessible remotely by entering your library/university identification/bar codes. Besides the cooperatively available resources, each public library may have other resources available. Check your local public library for information on what databases are available in your area and how to access them.

The Portland Area Library System, which includes the Multnomah County Library, makes a number of licensed databases available to the faculty, staff, and patrons of the participating libraries. These databases include Articles1st, GPO, StatUSA, CINAHL, Medline, Contents1st, ERIC, PapersFirst, Proceedings First, FastDoc, AIDSline, BIOSIS Preview, HealthSTAR, MLA Bibliogaphy, UnCover, PsychINFO, Worldcat, and Unionlists. These databases are available to Multnomah County Library patrons through the Internet stations at the Central and branch libraries, or through dialup via the Lynx web browser in plain text format.
Multnomah County Library Dialup number: 503-306-5788; choose the Portals option.

InfoTrac Search Bank (IAC)
The Multnomah County Library makes a number of IAC databases available to its patrons, both within the libraries and remotely through the web. To access these databases you must have a Multnomah County Library card. Most of these databases carry a large number of full text, including graphics, articles. The available databases include Gen'l Reference Center Gold, General BusinessFile ASAP which includes Corporate Profiles and Investext analyst reports, Predicasts PROMT, Expanded Academic ASAP, Health Reference Center, and Computer Database. (Multnomah County Library cards are available to people residing in Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas, and Hood River counties, or you can obtain a card for a yearly fee. Those outside these areas should check with your local public libraries to see what services of this type that they offer.)

ProQuest Direct
A number of academic and public libraries in Oregon subscribe through the ORBIS consortium to the ProQuest Direct database featuring the Oregonian and other local newspapers. These are available through your local Oregon public library.


Please send any suggestions or comments to tbchad@tbchad.com. Cybrargonians on the Net will be archived at: http://www.tbchad.com/cybrar/.

Copyright September 1998, Terry Brainerd Chadwick. Reproduction/distribution is allowable for non-profit purposes with the author's consent.


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