Library Juice 4:13 Supplement - April 11, 2001

Another COLLIB-L discussion thread on Questia

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

Questia: who is behind it?
Date: Thu, 01 Feb 2001 10:46:48 -0500
From: "Drew, Bill" <drewwe[at]MORRISVILLE.EDU>
To: COLLIB-L[at]

One of our librarians has been searching the Questia website looking to see
who is behind it and advising it.  Surprise, surprise but some famous people
from academic library land are involved.  Here are the names of the
Librarian Advisory Council:

Rhoda Channing -- Director of Wake Forest's Z. Smith Reynolds Library in
Winston-Salem, N.C.

Barbara Doyle-Wilch -- college librarian, Lucy Scribner Library at Skidmore
College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Mari Miller -- librarian for undergraduate collection , University of
California at Berkley

Ann Okerson -- Associate University Librarian at Yale University

John Lubans -- Deputy University Librarian at Duke University

Sue Phillips -- associate director for technical/networked services for the
University of Texas' Austin General Libraries

Julie Todaro -- dean of library services at Austin Community College

Here are the members of its general Advisory Council:

"Former First Lady Barbara Bush, Harvard University Library Director Dr.
Sidney Verba, Xerox Corporation Chief Scientist Dr. John Seely Brown and
Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) Director Dr. Clifford Lynch."

Are people from our own profession stabbing us in the back?  Do these people
hope to outsource their library services?  What do they hope to accomplish
by being involved with Questia?

Wilfred (Bill) Drew
Associate Librarian, Systems and Reference
SUNY Morrisville College Library
Not Just Cows:
Have Laptop -- Will Travel.
"The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese!" --
Author Unknown

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

More on Questia
Date: Thu, 01 Feb 2001 11:05:56 -0500
From: "Drew, Bill" <drewwe[at]MORRISVILLE.EDU>
To: COLLIB-L[at]

Many university presses are in bed with Questia.  Recognize any of these?:

Purdue University Press, Rutgers University Press, University of
Pennsylvania Press, Oxford University Press UK, University of North Carolina
Press, Michigan State University Press, Massachusetts Institute of
Technology Press, McGill-Queens University Press, Kent State University
Press, Duke University Press, Cornell University Press, Baylor University
Press, and many more.  There are also many that have published for the
library community for many years including H.W. Wilson and Persian Press.

The "partners" listed is also interesting: National Association of College
Stores (College Store Online),  WebCT, and a company called Smartthinking.

Here is the Board of Directors:

Rod Canion - Chairman of the Board, Founder of Compaq Computer Corporation
Ken Lay - Director, Chairman and CEO of Enron Corporation  <--  Those from
California without electricity should know this company.
P. Andrews McLane - Director, Senior Managing Director at TA Associates
Troy Williams - Founder, Director, President & CEO
Wilfred (Bill) Drew

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

Date: Thu, 01 Feb 2001 11:52:28 -0500
From: "Bell, Steven" <BellS[at]PHILAU.EDU>
To: COLLIB-L[at]


Just the way you word your last paragraph takes me back to our previous
discussion of Questia (and what I call "the new information marketplace
competitors" - E-brary, Xanedu, etc.)in which there were some definite signs
that people were feeling a bit threatened by these companies - although
there was also some indication that they might present opportunities - or
might just flop all together.

I've seen that list of advisors before. Are they traitors to the profession?
I doubt it. They may be hoping to steer Questia in a direction in which
there will be more cooperation between Questia and libraries. Presently
Questia will not sell its services to libraries, and maybe the advisors will
try to change Questia's business model. Still, I could see where being a
Questia advisor doesn't look that good to your professional colleagues.
Still, asking questions about why Questia has a big booth at ALA when they
have nothing to sell us - or why they are asking for our input - does raise
questions about what the company's ultimate plan is for interaction with
libraries. The last I heard (from LJ Newswire) is that Questia hopes to
enlist librarians as a source of "influence" with faculty and students (re:
their target market). I don't think that's going to happen.

Just an aside. When I came in to my building this morning what did I see on
our bulletin board? A poster advertising Questia. Of course, there was no
mention of it costing anything. I'd like to know how it got there. I had
also heard from at least one colleague that a Questia representative had
contacted the provost on her campus to inquire about coming on campus to
talk up the service. I've already sent a message to all Academic Council
members at my institution asking them to notify me if they are contacted
from anyone at Questia.

Steven J. Bell, Director of the Library
Paul J. Gutman Library
Philadelphia University
School House Lane & Henry Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19144
(v)215-951-2847 (f)215-951-2574
Library Home Page:
Personal Home Page:

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

Date: Thu, 01 Feb 2001 10:59:30 -0600
From: Susan Swords Steffen <susanss[at]ELMHURST.EDU>
To: COLLIB-L[at]

Questia has contacted our VP for Academic Affairs and our Communications
Director. Because we are doing a very high profile plan for the library
of the future, they both referred the Questia rep to me.  After I
lectured him about not appreciating his doing end runs around the
library, he suggested he come to campus to meet with me.  The VP/AA and
I have meeting with him today at 1 PM.  I will report back afterwards.

Apparently there was a veiled offer of a merit scholarship in return for
access to our faculty.  We will see.

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

Date: Thu, 01 Feb 2001 12:21:02 -0500
From: "Drew, Bill" <drewwe[at]MORRISVILLE.EDU>
To: COLLIB-L[at]

If Questia succeeds in taking students away from the library it will be our
own fault.  One of our librarians here was telling me that her daughter has
yet to see or hear from a librarian either via e-mail or in any of her
classes.  She is now in her second year. I will not mention what school.  It
is a well known private university.

The real solution to such efforts as Questia is outreach and marketing to
our students.  We must go outside of the physical structure of our libraries
to where the students and faculty are located in the real world and in the
virtual world.  How many of you out there send out e-mail to students?  How
many of you go to class rooms outside of the library?
How many of you market your libraries to students?  I am asking these as
rhetorical questions as things to think about.  Question what you are doing.
Can you do it better?  Create a topic based e-mail newsletter that answers
real needs not one telling how many books are in the library and telling
everyone how good a job you are doing.

The founder of Questia began his company because of problems he had as an
undergraduate in trying to do research in his library. I hope we all can do
better in the future.

Bill Drew
.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

Date: Thu, 01 Feb 2001 14:24:05 -0400
From: "Adams, Mignon" <adams[at]SHRSYS.HSLC.ORG>
To: COLLIB-L[at]

I could not agree more with Bill's comments on our lack of marketing our
services.In the case of XanEdu, nearly all of us are offering far better
products than XanEdu's anemic subset of ProQuest articles. However,
XanEdu's interface is easier to use than many of our websites (we tend to
intermingle bibliographic databases and fulltext, and assume that when we
say "electronic journals" that students know that these are available from
their desktops 24/7).

Questia is a different matter. Although I've only read descriptions (my
requested free demo, to be available sometime in January, has yet to be
set up), it looks like an extremely valuable product. And it has social
value, in that Questia is digitizing the back titles of academic
presses,an event that otherwise might not have happened. What a shame that
the product will only be available to individuals able/willing to pay.

What I've heard--and this may only be hearsay--is that the academic
presses were unwilling for Questia to be marketed to libraries, for fear
that they would lose their biggest customers for their monographs. If it's
true, I find that a very short-sighted decision.

Mignon Adams

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

Date: Thu, 01 Feb 2001 13:43:46 -0500
From: paul wiener <pwiener[at]MS.CC.SUNYSB.EDU>
To: COLLIB-L[at]

That's just great. Libraries and librarians will look like fools if we
form a united opposition to an information provider - and not a crank
provider but one with the backing of professionals.  Questia will make it
or not on the basis of its effectiveness, cost and marketing, and many
libraries will jump on to help them make it! On the basis of the trial they
are offering right now, it is impossible to tell if Questia can be an
effective information provider. I'm amazed they're even offering such a
skimpy trial offer.

At 11:05 AM 2/1/01 -0500, Drew, Bill wrote:
Many university presses are in bed with Questia.  Recognize any of these?

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

Date: Thu, 01 Feb 2001 14:14:57 -0500
From: "Damon D. Hickey" <dhickey[at]>
To: COLLIB-L[at]

I understand from one person on the Questia Librarian Advisory
Council that its members are not being paid for their services.

While I would not want to advise a company that was setting itself up
as a competitor to the organization for which I'm responsible, I
believe the motivation of these librarians is professional in the
broadest sense of the word. Imagine that you were a respected
physician on the staff of a non-profit hospital. Suppose a large
for-profit medical company decided to establish one of its acute
medicine clinics in your community and asked you to serve on its
advisory board because you knew your community well and because you
would help the clinic to offer better medical service. As a
physician, you might believe that the quality of medical care in a
community was more important than the profit/non-profit issue. You
might believe that having vigorous competition for doctors and
patients might actually benefit medical care. You might even wonder
in your heart of hearts whether some for-profit clinics might in fact
be better providers of acute medical services than some non-profit
full-service hospitals. You might also realize that the company would
establish its clinic in your community with or without your help, and
that if you declined to advise it, someone else would probably agree.
It could be argued that you were in fact being more professional in
joining the advisory board than another doctor who said, in effect,
"I support our non-profit hospital and I'm not going to help another
facility provide medical services that might weaken or threaten it."

Damon Hickey, The College of Wooster

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

Date: Thu, 01 Feb 2001 14:37:26 -0500
From: "Drew, Bill" <drewwe[at]MORRISVILLE.EDU>
To: COLLIB-L[at]

I want to state again that I am NOT opposed to the Questia product and
service.  I am opposed to them marketing directly to our students saying
they can provide things the library can't.  I personally don't think their
business model will fly.  As others have said here,  students are cheap and
want things at no cost when ever possible.  Also, as one librarian stated in
a personal message to me, "take a lot to replicate a library online, and at
the moment I'd say that
the for-free web sites offer Questia more than equal competition."

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

Date: Thu, 01 Feb 2001 15:10:07 -0500
From: Kelly Cannon <kcannon[at]HAL.MUHLBERG.EDU>
To: COLLIB-L[at]

Our dean of students, library  director, and myself ( a reference librarian),
all met with a Questia rep. today.  The discussion was informative to say the

Questia is not offering institutional subscription at publishers' requests.
Publishers do not want Questia to circumvent their academic market (libraries,
individual scholars).

Questia limits downloading and printing, again at publishers' request.
Individual pages can be downloaded or printed, max. 30 pages a session.

A journal list is not likely to be published. That's because Questia will not
offer the full text of most of its journals, but rather selected articles as
authors/publishers permit.

Few if any journals are available now.  The weight is in books.

Most of the collection is out-of-print titles from major academic presses.

Librarians now working for the company are pushing, some aggressively, for
Questia to offer institutional licenses.

Questia is marketing aggressively to undergrads, through demos on-campus,
student newspapers, online, and certainly are hoping to get the good will of
librarians, faculty, and administrators.

The rep. did offer us free subscriptions to give our honors students for one
semester.  Our dean declined the offer; she did not like the idea because it was

yet another marketing ploy.

Questia is not, as far as I can tell,  offering anything more extraordinary
than, say, Lexis-Nexis or Ebscohost--though its strength is, uniquely,
out-of-print academic book titles--which can no doubt be of great value.  I'd
love to discuss Questia in BIs and with individual students, to place it in a
context.  But I don't want to promote a subscription-only database that  I can't

be sure students will have access to.

Perhaps Questia could offer a dedicated workstation in the library--it would
give access to all students, and could well result in more subscriptions for
home access.

(Mr.) Kelly Cannon
Humanities Reference Librarian
Muhlenberg College
Allentown PA

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

Date: Thu, 01 Feb 2001 15:49:34 -0500
From: "Drew, Bill" <drewwe[at]MORRISVILLE.EDU>
To: COLLIB-L[at]

All of this recent discussion and questions on Questia has me really
thinking about marketing of academic libraries and outreach.  If we were
secure in the services and outreach to our students would there be any fear
of companies like Questia and XanEdu?  I don't think so.  The only way to
feel secure is by getting our services used.  The only way to get that done
is by actively and aggressively marketing the library in all possible
venues.  The services we provide must also be timely and meaningful to our
students and faculty.  They must be available where the students are, not
just in the physical library, and also accessible 24/7.  So-called library
instruction must change to teaching information literacy and critical thing;
and must move out of the physical confines of the library.  Part of
marketing is also finding out what our students need and also what they
want.  Those are two different things and must be looked at in different
ways.  They may need articles and books but may want a quiet place to study.
My rant is done.
Wilfred (Bill) Drew
.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

Date: Thu, 01 Feb 2001 15:52:04 -0500
From: "Drew, Bill" <drewwe[at]MORRISVILLE.EDU>
To: COLLIB-L[at]

A member of the Questia Librarian Advisory Committee wrote me with the
following observations:

"I doubt Questia's goal is to keep students out of the Library.  I do think
their goal IS to make money AND may be to offer a minimum-size of library
that can serve as a basic information set.  At the moment, they seem to be
working with the Advisory Committee to find ways to develop relationships
with libraries, whose value I believe they appreciate (at least to some

I've tried the Questia site with its 50,000 books this week and found it
seemed to me to be content thin and not intuitive to use.  It really will
take a lot to replicate a library online, and at the moment I'd say that
the for-free web sites offer Questia more than equal competition.  I doubt
Questia's value or competitive place will be evident for a while, maybe
a few years."

Bill Drew

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

Re: Questia Discussions
Date: Fri, 02 Feb 2001 10:29:54 -0500
From: Karl Bridges <kbridges[at]ZOO.UVM.EDU>
To: COLLIB-L[at]

I've been following this discussion of Questia closely since there are
rough parallels to other events that have been happening on
college/university campuses regarding  inroads by corporate interests.
Now, don't get me wrong.  I am a firm advocate of the use of technology in
a library setting.  I have spent my career as a promoter and advocate of
innovation in libraries which has caused me a great deal of personal
suffering and, to some extent, actually limited my professional career.  So
I think I can speak with the authority of someone who knows of what they speak.
The words which are normally missing in these conversations are
"appropriateness" and "proportionality."  Is technology a good
thing?  Yes.  Is it, in its current state e.g. Questia a replacement for
"traditional" methods. No.  In our pell mell rush over this "bridge to the
21st century" (to borrow a phrase from a former leader) we perhaps should
consider this.  In many cases, especially for freshmen students, they don't
need technology.  They need to be given a stack of appropriate (paper)
books and told to go read until they think they understand what's going
on.  I'm seriously concerned that many libraries are, in effect, stripping
themselves of the resources to provide this basic experience in favor of
some technology solution that is not appropriate.
Does it benefit a freshman student to have access to the Internet ( or fill
in the blank here with the name of your favorite electronic resources) when
we fail to provide them, as institutions, the fundamental critical and
analytical skills that allow them to separate the wheat from the chaff?  As
a reference librarian I observe on a daily basis the increasing
"Jeopardization" of knowledge -- the desire of students for individual
answers with little if any regard for big picture items.  The replacement
of actual knowledge with a patchwork quilt of individual factoids.  The
confusion that information is somehow the same as knowledge and that the
possession of information means one is wise.
I'm suggesting, and I know that this will raise the hackles of many, that
perhaps, as university/college citizens, we need to step back from the
concept of the student as consumer and place more emphasis, as was the case
long ago, on the development of values for our students -- the creation of
good citizens in a democracy.

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

Date: Fri, 02 Feb 2001 10:50:21 -0500
From: "Drew, Bill" <drewwe[at]MORRISVILLE.EDU>
To: COLLIB-L[at]

Karl's comments are thought provoking but are making it appear as an
either/or option, either we offer online resources without teaching critical
thinking and evaluation or we offer only paper resources with instruction.
That oversimplifies the situation.  Here at SUNY Morrisville we teach
critical thinking and evaluation of information in the use of all types of
media and information sources.  The same critical thinking skills and
techniques work for all types of information formats.  Students will not
come into the library if we only offer them "piles of paper."   Even back in
the early 1970s when I was an undergrad, research involved more than just
piles of paper.

Bill Drew ; Associate Librarian, Systems and Reference
SUNY Morrisville College Library

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

Date: Fri, 02 Feb 2001 11:03:27 -0800
From: Blake Carver <bcarver[at]LISNEWS.COM>
To: COLLIB-L[at]

Just ran across this "Q&A" with president, and CEO, Troy Williams.

"After 2-1/2 years of planning and development, Questia provides online
access to a core liberal arts collection of about 50,000 digitized books and
offers full-text searching and research applications. The subscription
service is being marketed directly to college students. Williams hopes it
will become as indispensable to them as word processing, and that the
Questia collection will enhance and complement library collections."

"We do believe people who want to read that text will go into the library
and borrow it. Second, we think it's going to increase patronage in a
library. If the result of a full-text search identifies 12 books with
specific, relevant paragraphs, then a student can go into a library with
confidence. Now, when students go into a library, many have trepidation
about spending hours looking and not finding relevant books. Our market
research showed that the process of identifying that first relevant book
took the most amount of time. Once they find that first one, they have a
hook to find more. Questia, with its full-text searching, enables them to
identify that first book very quickly."

Blake Carver
Librarian and Information Science News

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

Re: Questia Discussions
Date: Fri, 02 Feb 2001 22:44:12 -0600
From: Karl Bridges <kbridges[at]ZOO.UVM.EDU>
To: COLLIB-L[at]

I'm not suggesting that many, if not most libraries, don't make an attempt
to prvide both resources and instruction.  I am suggesting that, in many
cases, the priorities are seriously skewed.

The reality is that, in many cases, we do offer resources without teaching
critical skills.  What do you call it when faculty lines go empty because
the money has to be spent on expensive databases?  What do you call it when
university administrators insist that lines for librarians go empty because
of arguments that "We have technology and that means that we don't need the

Universities have largely accepted the argument that technology can be used
to replace skilled professionals. Basically the same argument that American
industry accepted in the late 1960s and 1970s.  How about we ask some auto
workers and steel plant employees how well that worked for them?

My basic premise is not an argument with libraries.  It's an argument that
the rest of university hasn't done its job.  Administrators increase their
salaries, refuse to cut money-losing programs, and then try to balance the
budget on the back of the library.  They view the student as a consumer and
bend over backwards to lower standards and indulge them rather then insist
that they actually do serious academic work.  Faculty members don't require
use of the library and don't use it themselves.

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

more on Questia...
Date: Thu, 15 Feb 2001 10:38:05 -0400
From: "Adams, Mignon" <adams[at]SHRSYS.HSLC.ORG>
To: COLLIB-L[at]


I'm sure that all of you have received multiple mailings now from Questia,
offering a variety of free trials. I've signed up, and my initial reaction
is that I can't believe the product has been released with so many
technical deficiencies.

Sometimes my username and password are accepted, sometimes not. My first
two attempts to get to the fulltext resulted in crashes;  switching from
Netscape to Explorer, on my next attempt I was able to view one page
before my computer crashed.(And my computer is less than a year old.)

Nor am I impressed with the search engine: using a topic one of my
students is working on (the role of schools in the development of
adolescent self-esteem) yielded no results...not irrelevant results, but
none. If it's searching the fulltext of 50,000 titles, including
publications in psychology and education, would not one expect a large
number of at least irrelevant results?

When my frustration level subsides somewhat, I plan to try another
computer (not at home, though--Questia despite its printed claims doesn't
do Macs) and some other topics.

Have others had success in using Questia?

Mignon Adams

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

Re: more on Questia...
Date: Thu, 15 Feb 2001 10:54:07 -0500
From: Kelly Cannon <Kcannon[at]HAL.MUHLBERG.EDU>
To: COLLIB-L[at]

I too experienced many frustrations. Few if any hits, great difficulty in
navigating the download features.   Then I got to the "My Folder" section,
clicked on "Writing Lab," and saw this invitation:

SMARTHINKING and Questia have paired to bring you the best
     in online academic support! Simply log-on and receive live,
     person-to-person tutoring in math, statistics, accounting,
     economics, psychology, and grammar. You can even submit a
     paper to our writing experts for a critique within 24 hours.

 Hmmm. . .

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

Questia ... again?
Date: Thu, 15 Feb 2001 18:05:20 -0800
From: Larry Oberg <loberg[at]WILLAMETTE.EDU>
To: COLLIB-L[at]


Because interest in Questia spiked (have we coined a new cliche?)
recently, I thought you might be interested in a quote or two from Questia
founder, president, and CEO Troy Williams, that appeared recently in
Information Today (v.18, no.2).

Larry Oberg.

"Question: I understand that you are marketing Questia directly to college
students. Are you involving academic librarians at all? Are you hoping
they will help you spread the word?

Answer: Yes, absolutely. I just spent the last few days at the midwinter
meeting of [ALA]. We were there because we want the library community's
input on how we can make the service better. We have established a
librarian advisory council, which includes people like Sue Phillips from
the University of Texas and Ann Okerson from Yale, and other key people in
collection development. We're also taking recommendations from faculty
        We view Questia as a complement to library collections. No library
can fully service the demand for a particular book when the demand spikes.
That's why they have reserve rooms. There may be 100 students on campus
who want the same book on the same night. Questia has an unlimited number
of copies of a text--we could have a million people looking at the same
page of the same book. A librarian could say: "That copy is checked out.
You could request it on ILL from another university, or if you need it
tonight, you can get it on Questia." It will enable them to get more
people access to books.
        As far as marketing to the library community, we were at ALA to
listen to ideas on how we might do that. There have been concerns among
the publishers. They do not want us to site-license the service to
libraries, fearing it would cut print copy purchases by libraries. I think
that libraries would continue to buy the print, but it will take us some
time to work out arrangements. That said, there may be other ways to work
with institutions, maybe in defraying costs for students, or something
else. But, we have no current plans to pursue institutional sales."

Question: There's also a big difference between a student looking at one
page at a time on screen and even hyperlinking through text, and having
the physical book to read the entire text. Libraries will still need to
provide the physical texts.

Answer: Yes, there's two more points. We do believe people who want to
read that text will go into the library and borrow it. Second, we think
it's going to increase patronage in a library. If the result of a
full-text search identifies 12 books with specific, relevant paragraphs,
then a student can go into a library with confidence. Now, when students
go into a library, many have trepidation about spendingt hours looking and
not finding relevant books. Our market research showed that the process of
identifying that first relevant book took the most amount of time. Once
they find that first one, they have a book to find more. Questia, with its
full-text searching, enables them to identify that first book very

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

Questia Watch - Questionable Advertising Ethics
Date: Thu, 22 Feb 2001 09:03:43 -0500
From: "Bell, Steven" <BellS[at]PHILAU.EDU>
To: COLLIB-L[at]

I came across something that I'd thought I share with the list since there
is interest in Questia and its potential impact on academic libraries.

I was reading the lastest issue of ResearchBuzz. It contained an item about
some new advanced features of Google Group watch which I thought I'd give a
try - and used "Questia" as my search topic. I wanted to see if Questia was
being discussed on lists other than our own.

I came across quite a few messages on different lists for humanities and
social sciences researchers, posted from two or three different individuals
that all had the same domain, "" and very similar message
content. Here is the actual text of the messages (there were a few different

I got an email from one of my friends regarding Questia Media. It's an
online research sevice that allows users to do research from anywhere. Right
now, Questia is offering a special sneak preview of the service and a FREE
one-month trial. Go to this site to sign up. If you have know someone in
college this could be a lifesaver
I've been trying to find an online research website that will help me do
research from home, but I had not been able to find a site that had books
online. Last week I heard of Questia. From what I see, they have what I'm
looking for. Go to this website and signt up for a free trail They let you try it out at no
charge for one month. Plus they don't require credit card info so I don't
feel like they are trying to rip me off or hope I forget to unsubscribe.
Visit this website.  My professor recommended it
as a great tool for online research for liberal
arts subjects.  Sign up for free month trial.

All three of the above messages were from one individual:


Another individual on one of the lists that received one of these messages
posted the following:

The previous message was posted from IP address, which turns
out to be; the author who claims to have only heard of
Questia last week would appear to be an employee. The ringing endorsement
would thus be a misleading advertisement.
Ok, so those messages are pretty thinly disguised ads for Questia - it
doesn't take a genius to figure that out. But I still find it rather
disturbing - an certainly a case of questionable ethics - that Questia would
flood the type of listservs our patrons frequent with this sort of material.
Papering our campuses with their posters is one thing, but how is this
activity different from an investor who buys a stock and then posts messages
under different aliases encouraging others to buy the stock using false
claims about the stock's potential to rise in price. The latter is an
obviously illegal activity (a recent case proves this), but the Questia
messages don't seem all that different to me.
What to make of this? Not sure, but I believe this is a company that says it
wants to be our friend, partner, help us meet the gaps in our collections,
etc. Do we need a friend that behaves like this?

Steven J. Bell, Director of the Library
Paul J. Gutman Library
Philadelphia University
School House Lane & Henry Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19144
(v)215-951-2847 (f)215-951-2574
Library Home Page:
Personal Home Page:

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

Re: Questia Watch - Questionable Advertising Ethics
Date: Thu, 22 Feb 2001 07:34:13 -0600
From: Peter Picerno <ppicerno[at]mail.ASTATE.EDU>
To: COLLIB-L[at]

Thanks for posting these ... but my response is, "wake up and smell the
coffee!!!" -- From all we know so far, Questia is a For Profit company
starting out in a market which, up till recently, had been pretty much
dominated by libraries (okay, libraries and search engine companies). Now
talk to your collection development librarians (which I am), and ask them
how scrupulous most publishers are in terms of advertising and hawking their
wares. You'll find out that most publishers are pretty forceful - to say the
least - in their sales pitches and some publishers are downright sleazy. So
do you honestly expect a company like Questia to sit there primly with its
corporate hair in a bun and sensible shoes waiting for the world to discover
how wonderful it is while it's corporate meter is ticking the dollars
away??? They will resort to any form of legal coercion, bribery, or whatever
it takes in order to sell their product.
As librarians, we have to learn two lessons from this: (1) unless we get as
agressive about marketing our own wares, our credibility as a profession
will quickly wane, and (2) if we're going to compete with services like
Questia, we had better be damn good about what we, as librarians, and
libraries offer our patrons. Campus administrators will be all too easily
persuaded that student subscriptions to something like Questia would be a
great way to shave off library budget dollars!!

P Picerno
.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

Re: Questia Watch - Questionable Advertising Ethics
Date: Thu, 22 Feb 2001 09:39:24 -0500
From: "Drew, Bill" <drewwe[at]MORRISVILLE.EDU>
To: COLLIB-L[at]

Please give me one concrete example of a reputable publisher stooping to
such lengths?  If they did it would be all over the library media in no
time.  Your other points do make sense.

Bill Drew

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

Re: Questia Watch - Questionable Advertising Ethics
Date: Thu, 22 Feb 2001 11:15:12 -0800
From: Blake Carver <bcarver[at]LISNEWS.COM>
To: COLLIB-L[at]

I did alot more hunting around on Deja (or google groups) and found even
more intersting posts.
I sent an email off to Questia seeking comments, and posted all the
interesting posts to

These are the 2 postings that got me:
"I had an email forwarded to me about a new Internet research service called
Questia. They are trying to help students write better research papers,
faster and easier. I have checked out their web site, and if they can
deliver everything they promise, this will be extremely useful! Here are the
contents of the email I received:.... "

And then this, both from the same "person"
I am an XML developer for Questia Media, Inc. We are launching our service,
a college research library for students, in January. We are shooting for
50,000 books and journal articles online for the launch, and 250,000 within
three years. Some call this the largest digitization project in the world.

The long version of the story I wrote is here at LISNews, there are a few
more intersting posts I found.

Blake Carver
Librarian and Information Science News

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

Re: Questia Watch - Questionable Advertising Ethics
Date: Thu, 22 Feb 2001 10:52:39 -0500
From: Kelly Cannon <Kcannon[at]HAL.MUHLBERG.EDU>
To: COLLIB-L[at]

Just yesterday I joined faculty in a discussion about Questia.  I believe
educating our faculty and administration early on about the nature and
content of Questia can affect its use on campus.

Questia has gone out of its way to make the downloading and printing of
the full text difficult.  They did so, by their own admission, to comply
with publisher concerns that their product might interfere with the
traditional academic market:  libraries and individual scholars. To further
allay publisher concerns, Questia includes in the main out-of-print titles
only.  The collection development, from what I can tell, is coordinated
with this out-of- print availability, and cannot pretend to address a
particular institutions' curricular needs.  For these reasons, Questia is
really not a feasible replacement for library holdings, but rather a

Faculty (and I) saw great utility in the database for upper level
scholarly research, more for the graduate and professional levels.  The
books contained here (no journals, remember, at least yet, and never the
full-text of any journal, according to our Questia rep.) are very high
level publications--exceedingly difficult in the main for undergraduates to
grasp and better yet to integrate into their papers.   If students
effectively integrate the material into their papers, they probably will
have shown evidence of their academic prowess.  For someone already
conversant in a subject area, this could be a great research tool.

We were roundly disappointed in the product bypassing the institution
altogether and marketing directly to the student--it robs us of the option
to decide as an institution how we talk about and promote the database to
all students; instead, it'll be piecemeal, probably hooking the lazier
student who's least likely to be able to put it to good use.  It's
unfortunate too, that the "Writing Lab" component (where a student can
submit research papers, etc.) of Questia might well overshadow the
content-rich "Library" portion.

Kelly Cannon
Humanities Reference librarian
Muhlenberg College

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

Re: Questia Watch - Questionable Advertising Ethics
Date: Thu, 22 Feb 2001 12:15:26 -0500
From: paul wiener <pwiener[at]MS.CC.SUNYSB.EDU>
To: COLLIB-L[at]

Blake Carver: thanks for your fascinating and useful post.

I want to reiterate how uncomfortable it makes me, both to hear librarians
talk of "marketing" their services (while the same people would e aghast at
charging a penny for a library service), and to hear how frightened many
librarians sound at the prospect of Questia.

It may be right to bridle at such aggressive and typical marketing ploys
(though not such a bad idea to imitate some of them), but I simply can't
see what librarians as content providers are afraid of. We might just as
well decry the existence of Google or Yahoo or any good search engine as a
threat (I've often used Google to quickly find what one of our expensive
proprietary databases claims it offers somewhere in its abyss of
hyperlinks). We might just as well admit that we're not really effective if
we're perceived as do-gooders and kind-hearted experts. We might as well
say that we're not attuned to the marketplace mentality that appeals to
ignorance and self-aggrandizement. Meanwhile, we eagerly squander thousands
of dollars on user-unfriendly databases that do our jobs for us in the name
of indexing, yet we don't complain about them or the criminal pricing
policies some of these re-inventors of the wheel foist upon us. We might as
well complain that education itself has been limping along on an ancient
model and that current needs, prejudices, fears, politics, economics and
technology are making dinosaurs of the best of us.

How many of the complainers out there are under 40? Under 30? What are
young librarians being taught to believe and learn? Why are computer
wizards staying out of our profession? Why are our professionals paid so
poorly, why are print acquisitions dwindling, why are students staying in
their rooms? Who are our budgets
fattening? Why are librarians, generally the least confrontational people
on the planet,  now expected to be aggressive marketing specialists, when
all they're really marketing is someone else's product, not their own
ethic,  (how to use ScienceDirect, FirstSearch, NetLibrary, GaleNet,
Project MUSE,  SciFinder, InfoTrac, Lexis-Nexis etc. etc.)

The chances are that whatever Questia successfully provides (if it ever
does) will mean we'll have to spend less time servicing the trivial demands
of its users, and can get on with the more important library functions.

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

Re: Questia Watch - Questionable Advertising Ethics
Date: Thu, 22 Feb 2001 16:39:02 -0500
From: "Peers, Kevin" <kpeers[at]BELLARMINE.EDU>
To: COLLIB-L[at]

And what are the more important library functions?

Kevin Peers
Reference Librarian
Bellarmine University
2001 Newburg Road
Louisville, KY 40205


L I B R A R Y   J U I C E

| Library Juice is supported by a voluntary subscription
| fee of $10 per year, variable based on ability and
| desire to pay.  You may send a check payable in US funds
| to Rory Litwin, at PO Box 720511, San Jose, CA  95172
| Original material and added value in Library Juice
| is copyright-free; beyond that the publisher makes
| no guarantees.  Library Juice is a free weekly
| publication edited and published by Rory Litwin.
| Original senders are credited wherever possible;
| opinions are theirs.  If you are the author of some
| email in Library Juice which you want removed from
| the web, please write to me and I will remove it.
| Your comments and suggestions are welcome.
| Rory[at]