If e-books have a future," said Vince Duggan, v-p of sales and marketing at reference publisher ABC-CLIO, "they have a future as academic reference products." Beginning in January, the company began releasing all its front- and midlist titles as e-books. There are currently about 150 titles available, which are being sold to schools, public libraries, colleges and universities.

ABC-CLIO is a privately held corporation founded in 1953 with headquarters in Santa Barbara, Calif. The company has worked with electronic data since the 1960s, and its first digital database went online in 1975. "Reference, we believe, is a natural for e-books," said Duggan. "We're going ahead 100%." The company's e-books are being sold primarily as compilations, such as the War Collection, which libraries can buy whole or in part. The newest offering is the Encyclopedia of the American Civil War, which won the 2001 Dartmouth Medal Honorable Mention.

ABC-CLIO sells its e-books directly to customers in partnership with Versaware by using its Personal Content Management technology. The company also has a distribution deal with netLibrary, with whom it shares sales revenue. "We don't want to control distribution," said Duggan. "If a librarian has an ongoing relationship with another distributor, we don't want to insist they go through us."The e-book collections are priced higher than print versions because they offer more functionality and because the company incurs additional development costs in producing and updating them. The collections are hosted by ABC-CLIO and offer search capabilities within and across titles.

ABC-CLIO e-books are offered through a site-license model that uses IP authentication to protect copyrights and allows for multiple, simultaneous access. "We don't have a one-book, one-user model," explained Duggan. "That would deny the very reason for having an electronic reference work." ABC-CLIO offers discounts to libraries that want both print and digital versions, but Duggan said the company "is working with librarians to establish e-books as entities unto themselves." The California State University Library Consortiumand the Ohio Library and Information Network have already purchased e-book collections from ABC-CLIO, and more deals are expected soon. "Our goal is to make e-books accessible to librarians via pricing, to get people piloting and demo-ing e-books and to generate usage statistics," said Duggan. "We're hoping, in the long term, that reference is where the big difference is going to be seen."

ABC-CLIO has also expanded its online presence by digitizing its serials. The award-winning America: History and Life andHistorical Abstracts have been available in electronic format since 1998, for an initial price of $6,300. Renewal prices and prices for small colleges and large consortia are lower. "Our customers were really demanding that we go to the Web," said Vicki Speck, director of serials.

The company updates content monthly for a total of 16,000 to 20,000 new entries each year and continues to add features such as the newly available CLIO Notes, an enhanced search function. CLIO Notes was integrated into America: History and Life last October and will be available in Historical Abstracts next fall.

CLIO Notes came out of research on Web searches and their results. "We were seeing searches that weren't getting results, that weren't using the right terms," said Speck. "What we really wanted to do was to develop something that would provide context," and to that end the company provides data organized into modules, themes and issues, for which editors have pre-selected the best search terms for optimal results.

ABC-CLIO also offers online versions of its school reference collections. World Geography, State Geography and American Government are already available for $499 each, and American History and World History will debut at $599 each within the next six months. These subscription Web sites offer teachers and students access to searchable databases of historical essays, biographies, primary source documents, maps, photographs and other materials that can be correlated with school curricula and standards. "We're really trying to bridge that gap between curriculum and reference," said Dan Wagner, marketing manager.

The company continually updates its Web sites, and the sites also come equipped with teacher tools such as syllabi, discussion questions and tests. Beginning in the next few months, schools will also have access to related e-books when they purchase a site subscription.

ABC-CLIO has also teamed up with EBSCO to provide a full-text history reference database jointly owned by both companies. The company promotes its electronic products through direct mailings, catalogues, trade publications, e-mail campaigns, search engines and its corporate Web site.