My mother, of all people, is raving about Questia. Questia is not free, and my university library does not subscribe to it, but for about $99 a year you can get access to:
the world’s largest online library of books, with over 65,000 full-text books, 1 million articles, and an entire reference set complete with a dictionary, encyclopedia, and thesaurus. Your subscription to the entire Questia academic library also includes digital productivity tools for highlighting text, taking notes, and generating footnotes and bibliographies in seven different styles.
Now Questia looks like the kind of thing I hate – a service that attempts to lock you into using all of its information within its own paradigm, I don’t think any of their content can be downloaded; however, it is hard to argue with full text search of thousands of volumes of books and journals from some major publishers including Cambridge University Press and Taylor & Francis. And if it passes the mother test it must be pretty user-friendly.
Here is a direct link to their truly impressive collection of anthropology texts.
So, anyone here have any experience using Questia? Does it suck or not suck?
UPDATE: As per Rex’s suggestion I signed up for a trial account. You can’t see the trial account option if you go to the subscriptions page, you have to start using Questia and then you will see it appear as an option when looking at a book or article. If you don’t cancel after 7 days you get billed about $20 a month – far more than if you sign up for the yearly plan. And this experience is pretty typical of how crappy Questia is design-wise. For instance, you can create “projects” but then there is no way to move items from one project to another. You have to delete them, open up a pop-up window listing the projects, change the “current” project, then add the items again to that project. Other design elements are equally sucky – such as the fact that you have to go to a different view to delete highlights, it can be done from the same interface you use to highlight text.
Having said all that, Questia might be useful to people who live in remote places (like rural Taiwan!) where they don’t have access to a large library. There are a surprising number of books which you can read on their site. Even with the lousy interface, $99 a year might save yout the cost of buying a book you don’t need, or only need for a reference or two, which could well be worth it. Their crappy interface does not allow you to do anything truly useful, such as do a full text search only within a project or bookshelf you’ve created … but still, it just might be worth signing up despite all that (although I don’t think I will).
Finally, while their book selection is surprisingly large, their journal selection is quite limited. The main highlights for me were access to back issues of the Australian Journal of Anthropology and the Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology, I didn’t see anything else of much interest anthropology-wise.