The recent news regarding the merger of EBSCO and H.W. Wilson is an exciting development. ATG’s Associate Editor Tom Gilson (GilsonT@cofc.edu) and Editor Katina Strauch (firstname.lastname@example.org) interviewed Sam Brooks, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at EBSCO Publishing, about the merger and issues related to it.
ATG: You note in your press release that the “Wilson database products are known for their quality indexing.” Is that the main strength that Wilson brings to the table in this merger?
SB: Yes, if I have to name the single most important strength, it would be the quality indexing. Not only does Wilson have the highest quality indexing in some subject areas, they also have huge backfiles.
ATG: How about the content of their databases?
SB: If you are referring to the full text, yes, this is also an important part of this. Wilsonhas done a good job of licensing titles in specific subject areas that have not been licensed by the three largest aggregators.
ATG: Recent reports note the creation of seven super databases combining EBSCO and H.W. Wilson existing products. Can you tell us a little bit more about this?
SB: Yes, these are among the most exciting end results of the merger. In seven subject areas, there will be new “super databases” that combine all EBSCO & Wilson content in these disciplines. They include: applied sciences, art, biography, education, humanities, law, and library science. Some details are already available at: www.ebscohost.com/superdatabases
ATG: When will these super databases be unveiled? Is there a set timeline?
SB: Our goal is to release these super databases in early 2012.
ATG: Does this mean that the H.W. Wilson brand will disappear? Will any of the Wilson databases remain as standalones, or will they all be merged into these super databases?
SB: The H.W. Wilson brand and products will not disappear. For example, even though a new comprehensive database called Art Source will be created, we will continue to offer the individual components: Art Index (H.W. Wilson), Art Abstracts (H.W. Wilson), Art Full Text (H.W. Wilson), Art Index Retrospective (H.W. Wilson), Art & Architecture Complete (EBSCO).
ATG: Pricing is always an issue for libraries. How will you price these new products to make it
appealing to libraries/consortia to upgrade? How will this affect current EBSCO or Wilson standalone database offerings?
SB: There are two issues here and I would like to separate them. First, there is the issue of the existing EBSCO and Wilson database subscriptions. For the overwhelming majority of worldwide customers, the pricing policy will not change. Second, with regard to the new super databases, they will cost more than their subsets, but we are very aware of the budgetary limitations that exist and we believe libraries will find the products valuable enough to justify the pricing.
ATG: Is there anything else you can say about pricing to reassure existing customers?
SB: It is very rare for us to have uncharacteristic price increases for any company or database we acquire. A quick review of recent purchases by EBSCO should put the library community at ease. EBSCO acquired NetLibrary and the markup has actually gone down slightly. OCLC transferred many of its FirstSearch databases to EBSCOhost and prices remained stable. EBSCO boughtAmerica: History & Life and Historical Abstracts from ABC-CLIO, and price increases have actually been reduced vs. previous rates. EBSCO purchased The Music Index from Harmonie Park Press, and increase rates did not rise. EBSCO acquired all of Sage’s subject indexes (Criminal Justice Abstracts, Communication Abstracts, Family Studies Abstracts, Peace Research Abstracts, Race Relations Abstracts, Urban Studies Abstracts, Violence & Abuse Abstracts, etc.) and increases stayed similar. The same is true for the NISC databases we bought (Family & Society Studies Worldwide, Gender Studies Database, The Left Index, Middle Eastern & Central Asian Studies, Women’s Studies International, etc.). The same was also true when we bought Salem Press (Critical Insights, MagillOnLiterature, Masterplots, Salem Health, Salem Literature, etc.) and Whitston Publishing. No matter how far you go back (e.g., CINAHL, SPORTDiscus, etc.), a large majority of customers can attest to the same thing. Our goal is to improve the products we acquire, keep them affordable, and then succeed by signing up more customers than were previously subscribing under the prior ownership.
ATG: It sounds like the WilsonWeb platform will disappear once all Wilson databases are available on EBSCOhost and customers have been transitioned to EBSCOhost? How long do you anticipate that will take?
SB: This is accurate. WilsonWeb customers will be transitioned to EBSCOhost once their databases are available via EBSCOhost. We expect this to occur on December 31, 2011.
ATG: Besides being enhanced to take advantage of Wilson subject vocabulary, indexing and relevancy ranking algorithms what other advantages will end users find when searching the “new” EBSCOhost platform?
SB: WilsonWeb has a great feature that will be added to EBSCOhost, which will benefit all of our customers. WilsonWeb keyword searches match against their controlled vocabularies and return results from “use for” terms. For example, a keyword search for “Burma” also returns results on “Myanmar”, because “Myanmar” is a “use for” term for “Burma”. This functionality is being added to EBSCOhost, not only for allWilsondatabases, but also for all EBSCO-owned databases. We expect this to improve search results in a meaningful way.
ATG: What is happening to the nonprofit part of H.W. Wilson?
SB: Both EBSCO and The H.W. Wilson Foundation have a long-standing tradition of providing financial and other support for libraries and library organizations. The H.W. Wilson Foundation plans to continue its commitment to its mission of supporting libraries and librarianship, as evidenced by its numerous grants and long standing support of the John Cotton Dana Award.
ATG: While the two companies have had separate, distinctive histories they also have separate, distinctive corporate cultures. Are there specific steps being taken to merge these corporate cultures?
SB: We are proud of the proactive, growth-oriented corporate culture in place at EBSCO Publishing and we are committed to continuing to operate with this same culture in the future.
ATG: What about personnel? How many Wilson sales and support personnel will be retained? Will they keep their current home bases?
SB: Given the transaction occurred less than a month ago, we are still in the process of getting to know employees and making decisions regarding the future. We will be bringing product support into our Ipswich operation. As decisions are made, we will be communicating appropriately.
ATG: Is EBSCO contemplating any other ground shaking mergers that you’d like to give ATG the scoop on?
SB: EBSCO believes strongly that the best possible search results come from a relevancy ranking algorithm built on searching a combination of full text and high quality subject indexing from controlled vocabularies. This means we will continue to be the leader in licensing full text and in acquiring subject indexes. Other than H.W. Wilson, I don’t have any I can report today, but it’s safe to say that we are interested in talking to any provider of high quality subject indexes or any other publisher of valuable research databases.