Bell Labs helps in electronic publication project at UCSF

MURRAY HILL, N.J. -- DECEMBER 9, 1992 -- AT&T Bell Laboratories, Springer-Verlag New York and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) today announced that they will collaborate on the trial of a new electronic journal distribution system at the University, and will work together over the next few years to explore the technical, legal, business, and social issues surrounding the electronic delivery of scientific, technical and medical information.

In the first phase of the trial, students and faculty using personal computers and workstations all over the UCSF campus will be able to search, read and print the full-page images of articles--including graphics and photographs--from 30 journals in the fields of molecular biology and radiology published by Springer-Verlag.

The publisher will provide "electronic subscriptions" for these journals to the UCSF Library and Center for Knowledge Management. These will be accessed using the RightPages elec- tronic document browsing and alerting system developed by AT&T Bell Laboratories.

After logging into the RightPages system, users see an array of journal covers on their screen, similar to the display of periodicals in a library. To read a journal, a current or back issue is selected, using a mouse, and the table of contents page is displayed.

Articles in the issue are viewed by simply pointing to their entries in the table of contents. Journal issues can also be browsed page by page, and articles can be printed on demand on local laser printers.

To help people keep track of current publications, the RightPages system will also alert them to new published articles in subject areas in which they have registered an interest. Individual users can create personal-interest profiles that the system will use to automatically search the contents of all in- coming journals.

When articles matching a profile are found, the users are notified via electronic mail. The next time the user logs in to the RightPages system, these articles are highlighted for easy reference.

"For most technical professionals, staying current with the latest literature has become nearly impossible as the volume of material published in most fields has exploded," according to Richard Lucier, University Librarian and Assistant Vice Chancellor for Academic Information Management at UCSF. "The number of technical articles published annually between 1969 and 1989 in- creased by 64 percent."

"With this trial, we are beginning to address this problem by bringing the library to the scientists' desktops--not just the library materials, but services, as well, such as those now provided by a research librarian," adds Lucier.

"The RightPages service represents two significant changes in the way we access library information," explains Ed Szur- kowski, manager of the RightPages project at AT&T Bell Laboratories.

"First, it brings the information to the user, rather than the other way around. And second, it personalizes the information that comes to the user, so it establishes a beachhead in the battle against information overload."

"If the RightPages experiment is successful," predicts Szurkowski, "it could herald a new application for computers that would be as fundamental as word processing, spreadsheets or desktop publishing."

The first phase of the trial will begin in January of 1993. Succeeding phases will extend the availability of the electronic journal subscriptions to additional campuses in the UC system, and to other leading colleges and universities in the United States. UCSF and Bell Labs will also work together to extend and customize the RightPages service to meet the specific needs of the university.

"This is a cutting-edge project," Hans-Ulrich Daniel, President and Chief Executive Officer of Springer-Verlag New York, "and we hope it will give us answers to many technical and logistic questions related to 'electronic' journals. More importantly, we will learn how they are accepted and used, what the market wants, and what economic models apply."

In addition to the obvious benefits for users, electronic distribution of technical journals has several advantages for libraries and publishers, including reduced costs for storage space, reference services, recovery and replacement of lost journals, paper, and printing. It can also provide detailed marketing information on which articles are most widely read, and whether articles are read in their entirety.

"It's hard to predict how this technology will evolve in the future," says Daniel, "but it certainly has the potential to become a new kind of information marketplace for scientists, in which information from all over the world is automatically gathered for the user by a computer system. And it could certainly change the way we think about libraries and publishing in the future."

Springer-Verlag New York is a subsidiary of Springer-Verlag GMBH, a leading publisher of scholarly books and journals head- quartered in Heidelberg, Germany. Springer publishes more than 300 journals from 10 offices throughout the world. It was founded in 1842 and is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year.

AT&T Bell Laboratories, headquartered in Murray Hill, New Jersey, is the research and development arm of AT&T. AT&T provides products and services for communications and computing to consumers, corporations and government agencies around the world.

The University of California, San Francisco, is one of the nine campuses of the UC system and is solely devoted to the health sciences. It has professional schools of Medicine, Pharmacy, Dentistry, and Nursing, as well as the Graduate School in the Behavioral and Social Sciences. The campus also includes several teaching hospitals and ambulatory care clinics.


The RightPages service runs on UNIX(R)-based workstations running MIT's X Windows(R) software or Apple Macintosh(R) computers running System 7.

It was originally developed as an experimental system for use by Bell Labs employees in New Jersey and has been in daily use for about one year.

"In designing the RightPages system, we have tried to preserve the traditional 'look and feel' of a library, because we believe that centuries of evolution have created a library system and magazine formats that are both comfortable and efficient for users," says Guy Story of the Computing Systems Research Laboratory at AT&T Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey.

"But the RightPages system also has features that are possible only with a computer. For example, users are directed to articles matching their interests. In addition, the system has what we call 'hyper-paper' features.

"These enable the user to point to a certain reference in the text--for example, a reference to a figure on another page-- and immediately see its image. We're attempting to assemble the best of both worlds--paper and computer."

In the RightPages system, each page is stored in three for- mats: a full-page image, which is what the user sees; a complete text file of the words on the page, which is used "behind the scenes" for searching; and page layout information, such as the location of titles, authors' names, figures, and subheads on the page.

The system actually stores several images of each page at different resolutions, to allow the users to "zoom in" on a section of the page without the image becoming blurred.

"We're still looking into how the RightPage service can help us solve the problem of information overload," says Story. "It's still evolving. For example, an experimental version of the RightPages system studies users' reading choices to 'learn' enough about their reading interests to automatically select interesting articles for the reader."


For decades, the "electronic library" has been a holy grail for far-thinking librarians, writers and computer scientists. Visions of electronic libraries have been published throughout this century.

Examples include the world information monopoly presented in 1936 by H.G. Wells in World Brain, the MEMEX system described in 1945 by World War II science chief Vannevar Bush, and an electronic brain, called Aristotle, linking personal and world information presented by Arthur Clarke in his 1978 science fiction novel Fountains of Paradise.

Since the first library catalog, librarians have sought to provide increasingly accurate, easy-to-use retrieval tools. The card catalog, thesauri, abstracting and indexing services, and online and CD-ROM bibliographic databases are all tools that were developed to facilitate information retrieval, and are precursors to electronic libraries.

Full-text databases introduced over the last ten years, such as Nexis and Dialog, are powerful, but they lack graphics and aren't suited to browsing, both goals of a truly electronic library.

Commercial image databases, such as those offered on CD-ROM, store images of pages, but not the text, so they must rely on a manual abstracting and indexing process to permit a keyword search.

Some experimental electronic library efforts now underway are: the CORE Project (a collaboration of the American Chemical Society, Bellcore, Chemical Abstracts Service, Cornell University, and the OCLC Corp.) Project Mercury at Carnegie Mellon University; and the Bibliotheque Nationale in France.

Michael Jacobs - AT&T Bell Laboratories
201-564-3836 (office)

Richard Lucier - UCSF
415-476-8293 (office)

Robert Badger - Springer-Verlag
212-460-1622 (office)