The National Academies—National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council—are committed to distributing their reports to as wide an audience as possible. Since 1994 we have offered “Read for Free” options for almost all our titles. [But you had to read them one page at a time. -- WL] In addition, we have been offering free downloads of most of our titles to everyone and of all titles to readers in the developing world. We are now going one step further. Effective June 2nd, PDFs of reports that are currently for sale on the National Academies Press (NAP) Website and PDFs associated with future reports* will be offered free of charge to all Web visitors.
After the bad news about how some great information sources may not be published by the U.S. government any more, here’s some good news.
First a little history: when I was in library school in the pre-web days learning reference sources from the late, great Terry Crowley, he taught us about the U.S. Government Manual — the standard source for basic information about every branch, department, and bureau of the federal government. It was updated annually, but a good reference librarian, Crowley said, would pencil in any major changes that occurred in between editions. (He also said that a really good reference librarian should know and be able to name all the current members of the president’s cabinet.)
Then the web came along, and the federal government put lots of its standard works online. The U.S. Government Manual was no exception. It was free and available from any device with an internet connection. However, it was still updated just once a year. You can still see the 2009-2010 edition and older editions as they were.
Finally, the good folks at the Government Printing Office and the National Archives have released USGovernmentManual.gov. The new site, backed by a database and XML, will be updated as changes happen. Terry Crowley would be pleased.
(Hat tip to Infodocket.)