Deep Web Tech Blog

The Last of the Major Discovery Services is Independent no More

On October 6, ProQuest announced its intent to acquire Ex-lIbris, the Israeli company that provides a number of library mergeautomation products and services, and also provides the Primo Discovery Service.

So, soon all three of the major Discovery Services – EDS, Summon and Primo will be owned by EBSCO and ProQuest, two multi-billion dollar companies, who are fierce competitors and whose primary business is selling content and not Discovery Services.

In the past I have written a number of blog articles including Discovery Services: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly in which I raised concerns that EBSCO and ProQuest don’t play nice together, limiting how much of their content they allow their competitor to provide in their Discovery Service. When they do include content from their competitors (not just the other Discovery Service vendor) they rank that content poorly.

Primo, owned by Ex-Libris, was different. Ex-Libris did not sell content and thus did not need to bias the order in which it presented results to the user.

In an October 6, 2014 article on its blog, Ex-Libris shared its frustrations on trying to reach a fair agreement with EBSCO that would allow Ex-Libris to index all of the EBSCO content in their Primo Discovery Service. I’m sure that these discussions will not become more fruitful now that Primo will soon be owned by ProQuest.

Carl Grant, in his October 8, 2015 blog post, comments on the ProQuest acquisition of Ex-Libris and in a paragraph on Content Neutrality underscores what I have been saying for years now:

Let’s not lose sight of the fact that we’ve lost another “content-neutral” discovery vendor as a result of this acquisition.  That’s not a good thing for libraries, although most librarians ignore this reality.  In the end, I believe they’ll regret doing so. We’ve had yet another check-and-balance removed from our supply chain. This post explains why content neutrality is so important and why that loss carries a potentially high price for libraries.  So, in this regard, this is not good news.  OCLC with their WorldCat offering remain our only content-neutral discovery solution at this point outside of open source solutions (which don’t’ have an aggregated metadata database like Primo Central, which provides important functionality for libraries).

From a Deep Web Technologies perspective I believe that this announcement is positive. Over time one of our competitors, Primo, will be absorbed into Summon, and libraries will increasingly see the advantages (transparency, neutrality and comprehensiveness of the content searched) that our next-generation Explorit Everywhere! federated search service has over Discovery Services.