04 November 2008
THREE BOOKS ON FINDING INFORMATION ON THE WEB
Berinstein, Paula, Business Statistics on the Web: Find Them Fast—At Little or No Cost, Medford, NJ: CyberAge Books, 2004, ISBN 0-910965-65-X, US$29.95, foreword by Charles Cotton [former chair, Globespan Virata, Cambridge, England].
Berinstein, co-founder of Paula Hollywood, Inc., an animation software company and author of Finding Statistics Online (with Susanne Bjorner, Medford, NJ: Information Today, Inc., 1998, ISBN 978-0-910965-25-5, US$29.95), has put together an impressive guide to sources of statistics relating to business, economics, and marketing. Chapter One, Quick Start, has “the absolute best tips” and “starting points for busy people.” Succeeding chapters cover sources of statistics and general search tips, followed by chapters covering US industry, non-US industry (heavy on English-speaking countries), market research, economic and financial statistics, company info, and demographics and population. She ends with a chapter on special tips and tricks, and “Your Competitive Advantage: Estimating Company Numbers You Can’t Get.” There are 32 sidebars and case studies and a glossary of statistics terms (from her previous book).
If you only use the sources in Quick Start, you will probably be able to find the majority of the statistics you will need, but for those difficult numbers—the only ones I was ever asked to find—you need to consult the other chapters. The other “must-read” chapters are the last two. Special Tips and Tricks covers determining what things cost, estimating your competitor’s marketing costs, how to use media kits and company filing to find out about industries, how to use government statistics, and—last but definitely not least—knowing the right questions to ask. In the very last chapter, Estimating Company Numbers You Can’t Get, Berinstein tells you what information you need to get started; how to draw up a timeline; how to find out how the company is funded; what to look for from the company’s products, how they are sold, and their target market; to use what you already know about the industry; to find out about competitors; what to infer from the company’s marketing; how to evaluate how much buzz the company gets in the media. I never would have thought to use all these tools in my competitive intelligence gathering.
This book should be in the library of every librarian (or market researcher) doing any type of competitive intelligence. And, since you should be doing CI if you want to become indispensable to your organization, that means you need this book.
Broderick, James F. and Darren W. Miller, Consider the Source: A Critical Guide to 100 Prominent News and Information Sites on the Web, Medford, NJ: CyberAge Books, 2008, ISBN 978-0-910965-77-4, US$24.95.
Miller is a reporter who lives in Asheville, NC and Broderick teaches journalism at New Jersey City University in Jersey City, NJ. They have collaborated on a wonderful resource for journalism librarians and others who need to locate information from the media (widely defined). The 100 sources are presented in alphabetical order from Agence France-Presse to Yahoo! News, with AARP, Consumer Reports, Hispanic Web, PBS, Rolling Stone, Weather Channel, and WebMD in between. Each entry includes an overview, what you’ll find there, why you should visit, keep this in mind (warnings and caveats), off the record (little details), and a rating (from one to five “newspapers”). There is an appendix listing sites by ranking and an index.
I would have preferred a different arrangement, by subject, with an alphabetical index. If I knew what organization had the information I wanted, I probably wouldn’t need this book. That aside, it is a good guide to what’s out there and how to use it. I wouldn’t classify as a “must-have,” but as a “must-borrow.”
Tamaiuolo, Nicholas G., The Web Library: Building a World Class Personal Library with Free Web Resources, Medford, NJ: CyberAge Books, 2008, ISBN 0-910965-67-6, US$29.95, edited by Barbara Quint [Quint and Associates, Santa Monica, CA], foreword by Steve Coffman [VP for Product Development, Library Systems and Services, Inc., Germantown, MD]
“This book will show you where to look for electronic versions of items that, if translated into physical terms that would sit on library shelves, would cost considerable money.” While Tomaiuolo was a medical librarian [he is now at Central Connecticut State University. New Britain], he found that the costs of research were escalating and that he could probably provide comparable service to his customers by using the Web. He cautions, “This doesn’t mean people won’t be visiting libraries. Librarians are on the leading edge of helping individuals find information. ...Nor does it mean that people should always opt for the least expensive resource.” He also reminds the reader that “it is unwise for individuals to trust everything they unearth on the Web. This is where a librarian’s knowledge and judgment become critical.”
The book begins with Free Articles and Indexes: Can You Afford Not to Use Them? and continues with chapters on news sources, ready reference, ask an expert and digital reference services, books, images, and art. There’s an entire chapter on technology: plug-ins, toolbars, privacy concerns, sources just for Netscape users, and blogs. In Final Considerations, he reminds us again that we can’t trust the Web, that some things will never be on the Web, and that the Web isn’t static and we need to keep looking for unfound information. The appendix has lists of links by chapter (which are more easily accessed from the website) and there is an index.
My biggest quibble with this book is the use of Personal in the title. Every library, personal or institutional, and librarian can benefit from reading and using this book. After all, the librarian’s mantra is cheaper, better, faster—and Tamaiuolo has created a guide to finding information that is (usually) free, reliable, and online. What more could one ask? Buy this book!