ProQuest provides information on all possible fields which may be attached to each object in their digital collections. ProQuest also reports that they will permit crawling of the Historical Newspaper databases under special circumstances and at an additional charge.
The level of OCR accuracy seems at least average for historical material. Any level of text searching will significantly improve access, since The Times of India has not been comprehensively indexed anywhere.
The value of having indexing for a South Asian newspaper cannot be over-emphasized as (based on some preliminary research) no South Asian newspaper has undergone comprehensive indexing, even in print. There are of course efforts to index newspapers (Guide to Indian Periodical Literature, Index Indiana, Hindu Index, etc.) and also some other emerging online newspaper products (the most notable recent contribution being the World Newspaper Archive) but these have been selective in their content and/or in their chronologic coverage. Furthermore, having even one newspaper indexed for a large span of years (the entirety of the Times of India in this case) can benefit access to a host of other papers as one can locate major news items in the online source and then use that information (date, etc.) to approach other sources (including those not in English, those archived in print and those in microform). Of special value in the ProQuest Historical Newspapers is that, unlike many traditional and/or print based newspaper indices, they have chosen to index each and every component of the newspaper—articles, editorials, advertisements—which allows new kinds of queries and comparisons to be efficiently conducted.
Technical platform & interface
The Times expands the international content of the ProQuest Historical Newspapers digital collection, which includes The Guardian and The Observer, as well as U.S. titles such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. ProQuest reports that The Times will be migrated to ProQuest’s "new unified platform, allowing content to be cross-searched and integrated within a library’s entire ProQuest collection." The public release of this interface is anticipated in January 2011.
The ProQuest “classic” interface available at the time of release in 2010 is simple and allows for fast and efficient searching of the full text of the newspaper. Search results are presented in an organized and easily sorted format. As with all of the other titles within the Historical Newspapers product, searches can be limited by date range, document type, location within the document, and page number. Display results are presented as three options: abstract, page map, and article image.
While every part of the newspaper is indexed and as such users can quickly access articles, book reviews, editorials, advertisements, etc., it would be helpful if ProQuest provided a list of the “content types” for selection in the advanced search pull-downs as this is not completely clear. If further indexing were possible, adding granularity to some of the categories (“matrimonials” and/or “entertainment” within the “classifieds” for example) would be beneficial.
The default choices for search types, results, and browsing options assume a particular kind of researcher, generally using discrete searches to find articles on known subjects. For the researcher wanting to browse the full contents of the paper, these assumptions may be less than ideal. While it is easy to link out to see a retrieved article in context as it appears on the page (“page view”), linking from an article or a page to an entire daily issue is less intuitive. Page browsing or selection is not available from article images, but only when viewing page images. While not impossible, “reading” a paper from cover to cover is not especially easy in this presentation.
Taking an alternate approach, the user can select an issue by date browsing under the “Publications” listing tab, but once having selected an issue one needs to “page sort” in order to have the contents of an issue presented in page number order. Then the user must return to the master list to select the next issue to view.
The ProQuest classic platform is an OpenURL target and source compliant with the San Antonio profile level 1 (SAP1).
Every institution has the option as purchasers of the Perpetual Archive License (as opposed to subscribers) to obtain at cost of transfer the full set of files for local hosting (including page image TIFF files of articles and full pages, metadata, ASCII text and edited ASCII text for headlines and captions, but not the database, search engine, or user interface). As of 2009, ProQuest no longer offers a Permanent Archive Addendum, which provided assurances on access to the archival files ProQuest maintains at Iron Mountain.