Features – European Document Delivery Services

Anke Baumgartner is employed by GCI Information Services, Inc. – a subsidiary of Stanley Associates, Inc. based in the US. She set up and currently manages a virtual business unit in the UK servicing corporate clients in the chemical sector across Europe. Constantly on the lookout for new suppliers and web-related resources, she enjoys researching the Internet and testing new ordering systems.


This article aims to point towards some of the key providers that are currently utilised by our broker service in order to facilitate document delivery to individual end-users within a multi-national company. Document delivery in this context refers to journal articles, journal issues, books, reports or conferences, and dissertations that can either be purchased and/or requested on a loan basis. I have included all kinds of Internet resources for obtaining material and some are more subject-specific than others. More importantly, many of the sites mentioned here do not offer an English version, and therefore, require certain linguistic skills.

It is important to stress that the majority of end-users are located on Continental Europe, hence this article concentrates primarily on German, Swiss, Dutch, French and Spanish suppliers on the web. In general, documents are located and purchased in the country where the requestor lives, but of course the selection process is not always quite so simple. This represents not only a more cost-effective approach, but also ensures maximum speed of delivery as far as hardcopy requests are concerned. We also notice that this method allows us to gain credibility and confidence with our European customers.

There are numerous vendors on the web and the following list of document suppliers is drawn from what we have developed over the last two years of servicing our corporate clients. All suppliers have three things in common. Firstly, they allow the requestor to purchase online. Secondly, the ordering form accommodates a separate billing and shipping address. Acting as a broker service, we instruct our suppliers to deliver the document in the chosen format directly to the end-user, while the bill is sent to ourselves. Although this might appear to be a simple process, our past experiences have taught us otherwise. To manage and control the flow of document supply across European borders can indeed present a frustrating process! Thirdly, the suppliers listed here continue to perform on a high quality service level (rapid turnaround times, excellent customer service, competitive pricing, etc.)

Purchasing Articles and Requesting Inter-Library Loans

One of our favourite ordering systems on the web to fulfil requests for clients located in Germany and/or for locating German language material is the SUBITO system. The SUBITO document delivery system allows the user to search the German Library Network which currently consists of over 14 libraries and the number is growing. The system itself contains 4 major databases. The ADI (Aufsatzdienst International) searches for journal articles from 1992 onwards and lists over 7 million articles. The ZDB (Zeitschriftendatenbank) currently contains 990,202 journal titles and is updated on a regular basis. A monograph database allows you to request inter-library loans for books, conference proceedings and dissertations. Finally, the forth database contains a full listing of addresses and phone numbers of German libraries.

The great thing about SUBITO is that their prices are very cost-effective even for commercial users such as ourselves. Journal articles can be delivered in various formats: standard or express mail, fax, e-mail format (PDF, TIFF, Postscript), FTP. Once a request is made you will receive a confirmation e-mail that your order has been accepted and a further e-mail once the item has been shipped (a good performance measurement tool).

A further excellent German journal article supplier is JASON (Journal Article Sent On Demand). This is very much the equivalent of Uncover in the US and holds over 40,000 journal titles. This system is supported by JADE where you can search for individual journal articles.

For a more specific search for scientific information we consult WEBIS (combining WEB and Library Information System). WEBIS is a joint project of numerous scientific libraries throughout Germany supported by the German Research Society. You can find all the libraries that participate in the system and their individual special subject collections. The special subject collections are structured into subject oriented ones (e.g. Russian Language and Literature, Economics, Physics) and regional collections (e.g. Africa South of the Sahara). All in all there are 121 special subject collections which can be found in more than 40 libraries all over Germany.

In The Netherlands, the DUT (Delft University of Technology Library) is a main supplier for Dutch material. DUT is the Dutch central library for technology, engineering and related sciences. The library maintains an impressive collection of documents: 11,200 current serial titles, 950,500 monographs and conference proceedings as well as 1,059,000 NTIS reports. They can supply documents, either from their own collection or any other Dutch collection providing it is available through the Dutch national catalogue. If the document is available in Delft’s own collection they can supply it by E-mail (PDF), airmail or fax. Books, reports and dissertations can be borrowed for a period of up to 4 weeks.

For locating further scientific material (especially biomedical) written in Dutch a good source is the Nederlands Instituut voor Wetenschappelijke Informatiediensten. You can download their minicatalogue at http://www.niwi.knaw.nl/us/issn/minicat.htm. It offers an overview of the most important journals and their holdings. Documents can be supplied via fax, standard or express mail. An interesting aspect of NIWI is its electronic journal database containing links to approximately 170 freely accessible, scientific biomedical electronic journals on the web, most of them full-text. The list is updated every month.

Scientific and technical French material can be located at the Institut de l’Information Scientifique et Technique. Article@INIST allows you to search over 5 million bibliographical references (articles, monographs, reports, congresses, theses). The database gets updated daily.

Just in case you ever need to locate that tricky Finnish business document visit the Helsinki School of Economics Library – Center for Economics and Business Information. The library delivers copies from its own collections and acts as an intermediary for inter-library loan requests. A further interesting feature is Helecon Online where you can retrieve annual reports and www-links of Finnish companies.

Monographs: Purchase Orders

An excellent source for general international material is BOL (Bertelsmann Online). BOL operates on a global basis and is currently present in 14 countries. In particular, we use the sites in Germany, Switzerland, The Netherlands, France and Spain. Italy will be added soon and in March 2000 BOL entered a joint venture with bokus.com, the leading online bookstore in Northern Europe (Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland).

A vendor we use on a regular basis for Dutch and English publications is Boeknet. They offer more than 100,000 titles in the Dutch language including a variety of US publications. There is a useful search option that helps locating Dutch publishers (uitgeverij).

The majority of US publications are ordered from the American Book Center in Amsterdam. Although the price for individual books might be a little higher than, say, on Amazon.com, the total purchase cost is still more competitive as the shipping charges are reduced significantly. Moreover, if the book is in stock the delivery time can be as little as 2 days. Furthermore, ABC offers a 10 percent card for regular customers.

Amazon.de is our number one supplier in Germany and Switzerland. It contains a searchable database of 40,0000 German language titles, but also offers a good number of US publications. Books are delivered to the recipient free of postage charges in Germany, Switzerland and Austria.

In Switzerland our preferred vendors are Booknet CH for both German and English general and business publications. Lesen is also frequently consulted. Several catalogues are available for English, German, French and Italian material. No shipping charges within Switzerland!

For specialised computer science literature and software you will find that Net-Point is a valuable source. They also offer currently 40 computer books on-line. Schulthess Juristische Medien AG in Zurich will provide you quickly with any kind of Swiss law publication or any other legal information.

A good on-line shop for French publications is alapage.com. Their database contains a large range of items – mainly French – that can be delivered anywhere in the world. You will also find a useful out-of print search function. Computer science books can be found at Biblimedia.

If you’re trying to find a Danish book and can not locate it via BOL, try searching at BogGuide (around 16,000 Danish books).

In Spain, we tend to use the following online stores: Iberbook. They will source any book or other type of publication from Spain, Portugal and Latin America. A further source for Spanish material is Submarino (has absolutely nothing to do with submarines) with mirror sites in Brazil, Argentina and Mexico.

Finally, a good search engine for comparing prices, availability, shipping time and delivery costs of books is DealTime. You have the option to search for American, English, German, French, Italian, and Spanish books.

This article was first published on Free Pint on October 19, 2000.

Posted in: Document Delivery, Features