RefSeek – what is the future for subscription databases?

I was finally doing a bit of reading via my Google Reader, when I came across RefSeek, written up by Jane Hart on her very handy blog.

 Ref Seek is a website for students and researchers that accesses articles from web pages, books, encyclopedias, journals, and newspapers. The idea behind the site is to make academic information easily accessible to everyone. I did a couple of searches on topics for Australian audiences (Ned Kelly and Kevin Rudd) and it didn’t come up with really brilliant results, but it did source a couple of more specialised sites that were useful. Below is a screenshot of what you see when you click on directory at the top right hand side of the screen.


Click on the links to the available sources of information and you will get an idea of the types of resources they are searching.  Below is a screenshot of some of the encylopedias used in the searches conducted.


RefSeek is an interesting alternative for our students and makes me think about what the future may hold. I’m wondering how long subscription databases will continue as resources that schools pay for. Will they eventually become free resources and rely on advertising to generate income? At my school we subscribe to databases like eLibrary, World Book and Newsbank. We’ve made decisions in the last year to cut some of our subscriptions because we didn’t feel usage warranted the outlay of money required to sustain them. As we see the net evolve and semantic search engines like Mahalo generate pages of rich relevant results, we may see subscription database services feel the pinch. Already Brittanica offers bloggers access to widgets that can be embedded allowing your readers full access to articles on topics you write about. I have a feeling that we will see scholarly articles become more accessible as knowledge becomes more widely available.

Maybe I’m wrong. I’d be interested in hearing what others think.    

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