Between making the term “out of print” obsolete and the convenience of being always available, the new ASTM Digital Library provides a valuable resource to concrete professionals. From now on, it's going to be hard to argue, “I couldn't find that document.”

Although ASTM standards have been available for purchase online for some time, the Digital Library ultimately will provide electronic access to almost every piece of work published by ASTM, going back to the early 1900s. Even more impressive, the entire library will be full-text searchable. And you'll be able to download as much or as little information as you need.

Launched in November, the library initially offered ASTM's 945 Special Technical Publications, or STPs. These are available as digital books in PDF format, so if you only need one STP paper, you don't have to buy the entire STP.

And the library's phased rollout continues. By the end of 2006, it had grown to include more than 50 manuals and monographs, including for example, MNL49-EB, “User's Guide to ASTM Specification C 94 on Ready-Mixed Concrete.” It also now offers articles from six ASTM periodicals, including its Journal of Cement, Concrete and Aggregates (issues from 1985 through 2004).

The entire backfile of ASTM journals, consisting of more than 13,000 articles, should be digitally available by the end of 2007. In addition, ASTM is working to create a seamless link between its existing collection of standards documents and its Digital Library.

Versatility in searching

When considering the huge volume of material—more than 40,000 papers representing more than 400,000 pages of information—assembled in one digital repository, you might wonder how you find exactly what you want. And here is where ASTM seems to be on top of the situation: Not only is the entire text of the Digital Library searchable, searching is free. You can also do field searches by keyword, phrase, author, affiliation, and numerous other options.

For example, a full text search of the ASTM Digital Library for slump yields 449 matches. These are presented in Google-style order, beginning with the potentially most relevant. While some of the listed items are not yet included in the Digital Library, it seems most are.

Several options are available for buying the documents you've found. On the economy end of the scale, you can pay for each item that you would like to download. In the case of slump-related documents, the manual “Tolerances in Slump” is offered complete for $74, or the single chapter can be purchased for $24. And it's downloaded to your desktop in just a couple of minutes.

If you expect to buy more than just a couple of documents, individual one-year subscriptions allow you to prepay for 25 ($325), 50 ($560), or 100 ($875) downloads. Or you can subscribe to the Journals Library, the Manuals and Monographs Library, or the STP Library at varying rates for a year's worth of unmetered downloads. A subscription to the complete library is also available for $4750.

Subscriptions are also offered for institutions. For example, a one-year subscription to the complete library, with access via an IP address or domain name, costs $8300.

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