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The Changing Face of the Scholarly Web: Finding Free, Quality, Full-Text Articles, Books, and More! [Available Full-Text, Free]

By Robert J. Lackie - Posted Jul 1, 2006
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To help organize the world's information and make it universally accessible, Google launched Google Book Search and Google Scholar.  Yahoo!, MSN, and other search leaders followed soon after to provide their own databases for finding quality full-text materials. In fact, some of them have even joined together to form alliances, such as the Open Content Alliance, with goals probably surpassing many search leaders' expectations. Still others have been making scholarly full-text work available to the public for years. Fortunately for all of us, the scholarly Web is getting noticed more because of new digitization initiatives underway and the enormous publicity search leaders are receiving for their fledlging work. Many librarians and researchers seem to be pleasantly surprised by the continually changing face of the scholarly Web and its freely available quality full-text offerings.

This article will touch on and attempt to bring together pertinent resources on the free Web of interest to anyone, including librarians and other educators, who conducts research  and would like to easily supplement their currently available holdings, in print and electronic formats and via commercial vendors' fee-based subscription databases, within their own libraries. Although somewhat limited by the directed scope and length of this article, I believe that the alphabetical listing of annotated links under each section should get you moving in the right direction!

Quality Web Resources Providing Free Full-Text Article Content

The amount of full-text articles that we can currently obtain via our library subscription databases is truly phenomenal. Providers such as EBSCO, ProQuest, Wilson, and Gale, to name a few, are continuing to improve their database holdings and search capabilities for us. I cannot even imagine conducting research without them, as these providers have made the process of finding full-text article content simpler and much less time-consuming over the years. I thank them for this. But all libraries and researchers cannot afford to purchase access to all of these precious storehouses of full-text magazine, newspaper, and scholarly journal content. Yet, our students and patrons still expect—even demand—that we make available to them "free" full-text articles on their topic as they sit at three o'clock in the morning on Sunday in their bunny slippers. Fortunately, there are some resource sites on the Web that have made searching free full-text article content more fruitful. I think you will find the resources listed in this section to be both intriguing and useful, although some provide only limited free full-text article content.

Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) []. Launched in May 2003, Sweden's Lund University Libraries Head Office hosts this "one-stop shopping" open access directory, providing no-cost access to the full text of 2,200-plus journals. More than 630 journals are searchable on the article level (more than 98,000 articles available) in the sciences and humanities/social sciences, and its directory is continually growing in size.

EEVL's Ejournal Search Engine (EESE) []. "EEVL: the Internet Guide to Engineering, Mathematics and Computing, has an Ejournal Search Engine (EESE), which searches the content of over 250 freely available full text ejournals in Engineering (160 freely available full-text ejournals), Mathematics (28 ejournals) and Computing (60 ejournals), selected for relevance and quality," including professional and trade journals and even some academic peer-reviewed journals. A list of all publications is available under the "ejournals" link in the first sentence on the EESE home page.

FindArticles []. The FindArticles database is an updated replacement of its original free, searchable article Web archive, with the current service now searching 10-million-plus articles from "leading academic, industry and general interest publications." According to the site, it provides "free access to information you can trust, from a collection you'll only find here." You can also find magazines by topic and explore all publications by title. []. " provides direct links to over 7000 scholarly periodicals which allow some or all of their online content to be viewed by ANYONE with Internet access for free (though some may require free registration). The issue(s) which are available for free are indicated for each title on the alphabetical periodical lists. The design of this site is optimized for users seeking specific articles for which they already have the citation."

Free Medical Journals []. This site, "created to promote the free availability of full text medical journals on the Internet" [without advertising] was established by Bernd Sebastian Kamps, director of the International Amedeo Literature Service and editor of the Influenza Report textbook (2006) and the HIV Medicine textbook (2005). His site lists medical journals that are free now and those that are free 1-6 months after publication. You may browse by title (in English or several other languages listed) or by specialty area.

Google Scholar []. "Google Scholar enables you to search specifically for scholarly literature, including peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, preprints, abstracts and technical reports from all broad areas of research. Use Google Scholar to find articles from a wide variety of academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories and universities, as well as scholarly articles available across the Web."

HighWire Press []. Hosted by Stanford University Libraries, HighWire Press provides more than 1.3 million full-text, peer-reviewed articles from 900-plus journals, in addition to quick full-text access to your institution's journal subscriptions to HighWire-affiliated journals via IP address recognition—journals to which you probably did not even know that you had access! (Click on "My HighWire" tab at the top, scroll down to "My Access," and click on the link under "My Institution's Subscriptions." You can also browse by topic, title, or publisher under the "For Institutions" tab.) []. is another site for finding freely available magazine articles on the Web, using keyword searching or category browsing methods. Indexing a little more than 200 magazines, its focused content allows the site to update with new articles within days of availability. The material is of good quality and measures the similarity between articles, linking similar articles to each other.

PubMed Central []. "PubMed Central (PMC) is the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) free digital archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature [providing free, full-text articles from 200-plus journals] at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, developed and managed by NIH's National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) in the National Library of Medicine (NLM)."

Windows Live Academic []. "Academic search enables you to search for peer reviewed journal articles contained in journal publisher portals and on the Web" and possibly through IP address recognition through your library/institution. Launched in spring 2006 in cooperation with linking specialist CrossRef and several major academic publishers, this beta MSN specialized search engine provides content from approximately "4,000 journals & 2000 conferences" (source list is provided).

Yahoo! Search Subscriptions []. "Yahoo! Search Subscriptions enables you to search [mostly] access-restricted content such as news and reference sites that are normally not accessible to search engines, [and it] expands your Web search experience by enabling you to find relevant information from the Web and your online subscriptions. You can search a combination of generally available content and subscription content, or search a combination of different subscriptions."

Quality Web Resources Providing Free, Full-Text Book Content

More and more of our library subscription databases are providing full-text access to book content, winning the applause of librarians and researchers alike. Companies such as Amazon and Google have garnered much publicity for their specialized products and features that have provided somewhat limited full-text access to hundreds of thousands of books available on or via the Web. These companies have certainly earned our attention. Still, others have been making scholarly full-text book content available to the public via the Web for a number of years. These individuals and sites are now, fortunately, getting noticed more because of the intensified worldwide interest in the digitization of books. The alphabetical listing of annotated sites provides some information to a few of the powerhouse leaders and the oldest providers and newest producers of limited or completely free full-text book content. I think that these sites are well worth the time to peruse.'s "Search Inside the Book" []. "Search Inside!" is a feature offered by Amazon that enables you to search millions of pages to find exactly the book you want to buy. The previous "Look Inside" search displayed books whose title, author, or publisher-provided keywords matched your search terms. But with Search Inside, results will include titles based on every word inside the book. To be fair to publishers and authors, Amazon only allows Search Inside users to read a portion of the book online.

Bookshelf []. Bookshelf, a "growing collection of [full-text] biomedical books (50+) that can be searched directly," is brought to us by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), a division of the National Library of Medicine (NLM) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Google Book Search []. "Google's mission is to organize the world's information, but much of that information isn't yet online. Google Book Search (formerly Google Print) aims to get it there by putting book content where you can find it most easily—right in your Google search results." There is a Google Book Search "Partners Program" (aimed at publishers) and a "Libraries Project" underway.

International Children's Digital Library (ICDL) []. ICDL is a "public library for the world's children," which started as a collaborative project by the University of Maryland and the Internet Archive (IA). Here, you can read more than 900 free children's books written in 34 different languages! "The mission of ICDL is to select, collect, digitize, and organize children's materials in their original languages and to create appropriate technologies for access and use by children 3-13 years old."

The Million Book Project []. The Million Book Project (600,000 thus far, 135,000 in English) is a coalition of Carnegie Mellon University, with assistance from the Internet Archive [] and other libraries around the world.

The National Academies Press (NAP) []. "The National Academies Press (NAP) was created by the National Academies to publish the reports issued by the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Research Council, all operating under a charter granted by the Congress of the United States. The NAP publishes more than 200 books a year on a wide range of topics in science, engineering, and health." It also has a small number of Transportation Research Board-published books available for free download (chapter and/or book).

The Online Books Page []. John Mark Ockerbloom at the University of Pennsylvania's Online Books Page has 25,000-plus works that are "freely readable over the Internet" and it "encourage[s] the development of such online books, for the benefit & edification of all."

The Open Library []. Created by the Internet Archive (see additional info on IA later) to "demonstrate a way that books can be represented online." I love the way you can read and turn the pages online here, but not many are available, yet. Their vision is "to create free Web access to important book collections from around the world."

Project Gutenberg Free eBook Library [http;//]. Michael Hart's Project Gutenberg is "the oldest producer of free electronic books on the Internet," comprising 18,000-plus pre-1923 "literary works that are in the public domain in the United States."

Possible Precursor to the "Universal Library"?

Search leaders and digitization entrepreneurs continue to work on their projects and join forces to form alliances to make full-text materials even more publicly available. Consequently, librarians and other educators need to stay alert to the ways in which these digital entrepreneurs work with and for us to continually change the face of the scholarly Web. I, for one, am grateful that general and specialized search services are continually improving their methods of locating, storing, and sharing this timely, comprehensive, and relevant full-text material, and including various multimedia formats. But in my opinion there is a clear leader—a favorite—among many searchers looking for quality digital content, probably because of the immense size and diversity of its holdings and the vision of its founder: The Internet Archive. In fact, several of the resources mentioned earlier in this article are related in some way, shape, or form to the IA and its initiatives, including the relatively new Open Content Alliance. Do yourself a favor and visit the following sites and their linked resources. Who knows—maybe the IA and all of the Internet Archive-conceived sites will, together, become the precursors to the "universal library" mentioned in Kevin Kelly's very thought-provoking May 14, 2006, New York Times Magazine article, "Scan This Book!"

The Internet Archive (IA) []. The Internet Archive, mentioned several times earlier in this article, is widely known for its Wayback
Machine service, allowing us to "visit" older versions of Web sites by typing in a URL. However, IA offers so much more, such as moving images, live music, audio, and text archives. The site truly is "building a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form." Like a paper library, the site provides "free access to researchers, historians, scholars, and the general public." You really should take the time to browse this site, and fairly often—I love it!

The Open Content Alliance []. "The Open Content Alliance represents the collaborative efforts of a group of cultural, technology, nonprofit, and governmental organizations from around the world that will help build a permanent archive of multilingual digitized text and multimedia content. The OCA was conceived by the Internet Archive [] and Yahoo! [] in early 2005 as a way to offer broad, public access to a rich panorama of world culture." Right now, other partners include Adobe, HP, MSN, the European Archive, O'Reilly Media, RLG, the University of California, the University of Toronto, and many others—and the list keeps growing!


In his May 18, 2006, SearchDay article "Building the Universal Library," Chris Sherman noted that "building a Universal Library is a huge undertaking, and not just because the physical effort of scanning tens of millions of books is in itself such a massive task. Once scanned, the books must be indexed and made searchable, all the while respecting the copyrights of books not yet in the public domain" (#1314). Obviously, we have a long way to go before we have anything even resembling a "universal library" of books, articles, and/or even multimedia content. However, Kelly quotes Brewster Kahle of the Internet Archive, who believes that "this is our chance to one-up the Greeks [i.e., Royal Library of Alexandria, 3rd century B.C.]! It is really possible with the technology of today, not tomorrow. We can provide all the works of humankind to all the people of the world. It will be an achievement remembered for all time, like putting a man on the moon."

But until visionaries like Kahle accomplish their sweeping goals, such as to "have in one place all knowledge, past and present. All books, all documents, all conceptual works, in all languages" freely available to all, I recommend browsing and sharing the few dozen Web resources highlighted in this article with your colleagues and fellow researchers. Let's get the word out about these gems, so that others will be able to more easily locate the quality full-text article, book, and multimedia content that exists right now on the free Web—resources that can successfully supplement our own libraries' currently available holdings, which include those found within our quality subscription databases. I think they—and you—will be pleasantly surprised about the changing face of the scholarly Web. Enjoy!

Robert J. Lackie is associate professor-librarian, Franklin F. Moore Library, Rider University, Lawrence-ville, N.J. Robert is also the New Jersey Library Association's 2004 New Jersey Librarian of the Year, and he is the recipient of the 2004 Rider University Award for Distinguished Teaching and the 2006 Ken Haycock Award for Promoting Librarianship from the American Library Association. Contact him via e-mail at


Kelly, Kevin. "Scan This Book!" New York Times Magazine 14 May 2006: 43+. Factiva. Dow Jones Reuters Business Interactive. Rider U Lib., Lawrenceville, N.J. 19 May 2006 [].

Sherman, Chris. "Building the Universal Library." SearchDay 1314 (18 May 2006). 19 May 2006 [].

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