Singing the praises of HeinOnline

I would like to introduce to you one of my favorite databases: HeinOnline.

William S. Hein & Co. Inc. started 80 years ago as a preservation publisher. This means they would take long, out-of-print legal research material and reprint it in either hard copies or microfilm/fiche format. In the early 1990s, they started using digital technology to make this process easier. Little did they realize the future of digital technology!

In the late 1990s, Hein found itself in a unique position to help legal researchers around the world. Hein already had millions of pages in digital format as well as the microfilm/fiche that could easily be converted. Working with Cornell Information Technologies (Cornell University), Hein established HeinOnline, a product that give access to historical legal publications, previously unavailable through other sources. The cool part about it is that all of the documents would be in the original page-image format (PDF), ensuring the authenticity of the original hardcopy document in an online environment.

By mid-2000, HeinOnline was already on its way to changing online research. The value of fully searchable PDFs is beyond comprehension. Today, HeinOnline's content spans multiple library collections with more than 40 million pages of research material, much of which is only available through HeinOnline. Here are some examples of things not available anywhere else (or at least not compiled so completely):

Of course, law journals and federal material are also available. Buy why on earth would you use HeinOnline to pull a journal article available through another vendor?

I am sure you are familiar with the hierarchy of citations, right? Ideally, you would like a Supreme Court case followed by an appellate court case in your jurisdiction. A statute on point would be nice, too. After that, you get into hazy territory.

Well, did you know that there is a hierarchy of documents? It's true. You see, the hard copy is most reliable, followed by an image of the original page (PDF). If all else fails, you can then call upon the digital world. If you are relying on the exact language or if you need to cite to a specific page, you really do need to look at the hard copy. But with so much material coming out so quickly mixed with space and time restraints, digital-imaging is becoming more and more prevalent and acceptible.

So PDFs are almost as good as hard copy. Wouldn't it be nice if there were an electronic database that was completely searchable with a sophisticated algorithm (you use the word "algorithm" all the time, right?) but would produce PDFs? Yes it would.

HeinOnline does.

William S. Hein & Co., Inc

Blake Wilson