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E-Books in Engineering Reference Work

:: Paul Teague, National Editor of Design News, writes in a 19 July 2004 column of how Knovel is changing the way engineers are using reference books. Teague notes:

Knovel's move is an extension of what other engineering websites have done. GlobalSpec (www.globalspec.com), for example, leads engineers to 10,000 catalogs, 40,000 material data sheets, and 50,000 application notes, while www.thomasnet.com has 67,000 product categories on its website. Kellysearch (www.kellysearch.com), with about 1.2 million visitors per month worldwide, includes listings from about 765,000 U.S. companies. But Knovel actually has the reference books' contents directly on its site. Among the titles: McGraw-Hill classics such as The Electromechanical Design Handbook, Dimensoning and Tolerancing Handbook, and Roark's Formulas for Stress and Strain, as well as books from Elsevier and material from professional associations, such as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. The company says the contents add up amount to about $142,000 worth of material—the amount of all the hard-copy books.
I agree with Teague - the Knovel package is a good one, and many engineers, researchers, scientists and students on our campus are still learning about the database.

Many of Knovel's titles include productivity tools, including features such as interactive tables, tables with equation plotters, graph digitizers, tables with graph plotter, chemical structure search, spectra viewer, phase diagram viewer, and excel spreadsheets. Teague notes this as well:

Knovel also points to the interactive nature of the content as a big plus. For example, all the graphs are interactive. View the content in HTML or PDF form, then put your mouse on a curve, and you get the data point. Tables are interactive too; click on them and they morph into a form you can merge into a spreadsheet. And equations solve themselves when you enter the variables. One reviewer compared the experience to a computer game, saying it was actually fun to do the calculations.

I would add that for high quality content, the CRCnetBASE databases such as ENGnetBASE, ENVIROnetBASE and CHEMnetBASE are of comparable importance. Libraries able to afford both Knovel and one or more CRCnetBASE dbs are providing their users with a large majority of the major handbooks in engineering and related disciplines.

One way to increase the use of important e-reference books is to embed them into resource guides. Examples of guides I've created, into which I've embedded selected e-reference books, include mechanical engineering, materials science & engineering, chemical engineering, and nanoscience & nanotechnology.

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