UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (JOE FASBINDER) Subject: Delivering books by computer Date: 1 Aug 93 02:08:15 GMT
UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL
You can now avoid the embarrassment of buying books and having them languish on the bookshelf unread -- silent testaments to good intentions gone awry. If you have a computer and modem, you can download books from a new service. That way, if you never get around to reading them, at least they won't stare you down. And you can erase them. Through the end of the year Ziff-Davis Publishing Co. will be testing on-line distribution of books through its popular ZiffNet dial- in computer network. Not surprisingly, the first title available will be a Ziff-Davis Press book, ``PC Magazine DOS 6 Techniques and Utilities,'' by Jeff Prosise. In its printed form, the book retails for $39.95. But for a limited time, you can get all 1,035 pages of it, as well as a collection of 48 software utilities -- programs that help you handle routine computer filing and file maintenance chores -- for $12.95. The computer version of ``PC Magazine DOS 6 Techniques and Utilities'' also comes with a viewer so that you can read it on your computer screen and quick-search software that makes it easier to use than a printed reference book. The quick-search software allows you to search the book for entries on a particular subject. For example, if you wanted to know about computer viruses and how to guard against them, you could just type in the key word -- virus -- and the search software would guide you to every entry in the book on that subject. That's a lot faster than skimming or using the index and flipping pages. So what you end up with is a book that's less expensive and more effective -- at least as a reference. There is a catch, of course. In fact, there are two. First, you have to store the book on disk and ``PC Magazine DOS 6 Techniques and Utilities,'' being a hefty book, will take up a lot of disk space. ``The book takes up about one megabyte in compressed form,'' said ZiffNet spokeswoman Janice Brown in Cambridge, Mass. Uncompressed, the text takes up about 1.1 megabytes of disk space. You might figure that compression would pack the book a little tighter than that, but Brown said it's ``not just ASCII (plain) text but also a viewer and search software. And there is a diskette full of utilities that normally comes with the book.'' The second catch is related to the first. You have to pay for connect time -- or the amount of time it takes to get the book off the ZiffNet computer and into your computer -- in addition to paying the $12.95 book price. Since most modem-equipped computers use modems that operate at 2,400 bits per second -- or 2400 bps in industry shorthand -- it takes a long time to download a megabyte of data. Members of ZiffNet who dial direct pay $12.80 an hour for connect time if their modem operates at speeds up to 2400 bps and $22.80 an hour if they have a 9600 bps modem. Brown estimated that at 2400 bps, downloading the book would take about 76 minutes, or $16 worth of connect time. At 9600 bps, the download procedure would take about 20 minutes, or $7 worth of connect time. The bottom line is that even after adding the connect time charges to the $12.95 price, you still get a significant discount off the $39.95 cover price for the book and also have that nifty computerized search capability. And you can print out what you need when you need it. You can access ZiffNet directly by dialing (800) 666-0330 and following the instructions or get to ZiffNet through a computer ``gateway'' on the Compuserve computer network. The Prodigy computer service has a limited ZiffNet menu, but you won't be able to download the book through Prodigy. Ziff-Davis currently is evaluating additional titles for on-line distribution, but it will be up to the computing public to decide if the distribution method is popular enough to merit continuation.
SUBJECT: BIG DATABASE: NOT SO BIG PRICE From: email@example.com (JOE FASBINDER) Date: 8 Aug 93 02:08:04 GMT
UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL
Since the personal computer came into general usage, people have
been waiting for newspapers to begin showing up on the screen.
A lot of them are now showing up on GEnie, the Rockville, Md.-
based computer information service run by General Electric Co.
GEnie announced in late July that subscribers now have access to
the Dialog Database Center, provided by Advanced Research Technologies.
GEnie provides what is known as a gateway system. That means you
use your computer and modem to dial into GEnie's computer, then you tell
GEnie you want to enter the Dialog Database Center. At that point, GEnie
sends your call into the Dialog computer, where you get your
Once you're inside the Dialog system, there's a lot to look at:
newspapers, for example.
The system has full texts of the Atlanta Journal Constitution,
Baltimore Sun, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor,
Los Angeles Daily News, Detroit Free Press, Houston Post, Los Angeles
Times, Miami Herald, Newsday and New York Newsday, Philadelphia
Inquirer, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, San Jose
Mercury News, USA Today, Washington Post and Washington Times, with most
of the texts going back to 1980.
But don't plan on leafing thought the pages looking for a sale on
shoes. To deal with the newspapers, you have to ask for what you want
using a method called Boolean logic.
It sounds complicated but it's not. Boolean logic is simply a way
of telling the computer what to include and what to exclude when it
searches through all those newspapers in the database, and you do it
using only three basic commands: ``and,'' ``or,'' and ``not.''
In testing the system, I decided to look for stories about a group
that blew up a church in Utah a few years back. I knew very little about
the group responsible.
But I knew the case involved a bomb and a church, and that the
incident had something to do with polygamy. I wasn't sure if it involved
a breakaway Mormon group that practived polygamy, but I knew that it
didn't involve Moslems, who also sometimes practice polyugamy.
Using that information, I came up with my so-called ``search
string'' -- the list of items to include and exclude in the search.
The search string specified using Boolean logic: BOMB AND CHURCH
AND POLYGAMIST OR POLYGAMOUS NOT MOSLEM.
The search takes only seconds. The screen displays a list of the
newspapers that contain material meeting the search criteria. The name
of each publication is followed by the number of articles it contains
that match the search criteria.
Sometimes it's a long list. In my test case, there were more than
So I added another qualifier -- ``UTAH'' -- to my original search
string to rule out incidents outside that state and conducted another
search. That narrowed the list down to fewer than 100 matches.
But it's impossible to tell, from the basic list of newspapers
containing related articles, which of those articles might be useful.
That list, however, provides a starting point.
The list is numbered with the publication containing the most
entries listed first. By entering the number shown beside the
publication's name, you can view abstracts of the articles it contains.
The abstracts run about 50 words -- enough to give you an idea if you
want to see the whole story.
From the abstract list, you can retrieve the whole story and,
using the capture function in your communications program, store it on
your computer's hard disk for future use.
There's a cost for this. GEnie charges $8.95 a month. The hourly
rate for the Dialog services are only $3 during non-prime hours and
$12.50 during prime time, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
In addition to the connect time, Dialog charges $2.50 per
successful search. If you should do a search and find no matching
articles, you pay only $1.50.
And there is an additional charge to view abstracts, which appear
on the screen in groups of 10. The charge is $2.50 for each group of
On top of that, there is a $4.50 charge for each article
retrieved. That means it cost $4.50 for each item if you want to see the
whole thing, whether you save it to disk or not.
I ran up charges totaling $67 during my test of the Dialog system.
The fees -- being footed by GEnie -- included retrieval of six newspaper
But the newspaper database isn't all that is available in the
Dialog Database Center.
Using GEnie and Dialog, you can also access a variety of databases
including: Ageline, from the American Association of Retired Persons;
AIDSline, from the U.S. National Library of Medicine; American Business
Directory; CENDATA, from the Census Bureau; Claims U.S. Patent
Abstracts; Commerce Business Daily from the U.S. Department of Commerce;
Computer News Fulltext; Consumer Drug Information Fulltext; Consumer
Reports; D&B Donnelley Demographics; D&B Duns Market Identifiers.
And those aren't all. The directory of databases available through
Dialog runs on for four typewritten pages.
And you search all of them the same way, so once you've done one
search, searching other databases is a breeze.
That's a lot of information at your fingertips. For a price.
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