Yahoo Premium Document Search review:

Yahoo Premium Document Search

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CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Easy to use; reasonably priced subscription plan; excellent refund policy.

The Bad Haphazard results are difficult to sort.

The Bottom Line Give Yahoo Premium Document Search a try when you're frustrated by the shallow results from conventional search engines. But if serious research is your game, use the more comprehensive, better-organized LexisNexis instead.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

6.0 Overall

By Rebecca Viksnins

Charging for access to Web content has long been a point of contention. The latest Web tollgate? Paying for searches. Yahoo has partnered with Divine, a Web-based communications company that recently acquired Northern Light, to offer surfers a new pay-to-view library of high-quality docs. Posing as a hybrid of the information powerhouse LexisNexis and conventional search engines, the service, dubbed Premium Document Search, offers 70 million pages from more than 7,000 sources, including international academic publications, business magazines, newspapers, and medical journals--all at a price, of course. You can purchase information two ways: individually, where the prices depend on the documents, or through a subscription, with 50 docs for $4.95 per month. Yahoo Premium Document Search's monthly subscription plan is a good deal and is easy to use, especially for folks who are already familiar with Yahoo Mail and Messenger, but serious researchers, grad students, and seasoned journalists will find LexisNexis more useful. By Rebecca Viksnins

Charging for access to Web content has long been a point of contention. The latest Web tollgate? Paying for searches. Yahoo has partnered with Divine, a Web-based communications company that recently acquired Northern Light, to offer surfers a new pay-to-view library of high-quality docs. Posing as a hybrid of the information powerhouse LexisNexis and conventional search engines, the service, dubbed Premium Document Search, offers 70 million pages from more than 7,000 sources, including international academic publications, business magazines, newspapers, and medical journals--all at a price, of course. You can purchase information two ways: individually, where the prices depend on the documents, or through a subscription, with 50 docs for $4.95 per month. Yahoo Premium Document Search's monthly subscription plan is a good deal and is easy to use, especially for folks who are already familiar with Yahoo Mail and Messenger, but serious researchers, grad students, and seasoned journalists will find LexisNexis more useful.

Familiar interface
Yahoo Premium Documents Search's interface is much sleeker than that of the company's portal, but don't be fooled by the splash page. Once you enter a search term, the no-muss, no-fuss Yahoo look rears its head. The results page lists matching documents and a set of tabs at the top right. These tabs make it easy to cross-reference your query against Yahoo's main search engine. Click the Categories link, for example, and you'll be taken to the appropriate category within the Yahoo hierarchy. The handy "More links from this publication" option that follows each result makes it easy to find all of the documents on a subject from a particular publication--click a result, and Yahoo takes you to a description page that includes the name of the article, its publisher, the date it was written, the price, the number of pages, and a summary.

Like what you see? Yahoo makes it a cinch for you to spend your pennies. Click the Buy The Doc link posted on the summary page, read and agree to the terms of service, then enter your Yahoo account username and password. (If you don't have one, you'll have to sign up for one.) Next, enter your address, billing address, and credit card info in Yahoo Wallet. (Yahoo encrypts your info using standard SSL encryption and saves it for use in all subsequent purchases, so you don't have to enter it each time.) After you're done filling out the billing info, review and place your order; Yahoo then sends e-mail to your Yahoo Mail account confirming the order. You can then read the doc online, download it, or print it to read later.

Results need refining
Alas, finding the specific information you're after isn't so easy. We conducted 10 different searches using a broad range of search terms--from the Alternative Minimum Tax to How the brain works--and the quality of our results varied considerably. For example, when we searched for Machiavelli, we received a paltry number of docs (2,293 in total). However, when we plugged in diabetes, we found a ton of quality research papers from sources that were all over the map (108,948 in total).

In our tests, the Yahoo Premium Document Search tool handled queries for scientific docs much better than it did searches for news or business information. However, regardless of the nature of our search, we encountered a number of disappointing results that lacked summaries. On several occasions, Yahoo unearthed a vague title from a publication unknown to us; without the summary, we had no clue what the article might be about. LexisNexis, on the other hand, supplied higher-quality docs and summaries. Granted, LexisNexis costs more--from $4 per week to search major newspapers to $129 for a week's worth of access to newspaper, business, and financial databases--but its pricing plans are much more flexible than Yahoo's. You can buy access to a wide range of databases, pay as you go, and subscribe either daily or weekly.

Awesome refund policy
Fortunately, if you bought a document that doesn't suit your needs, you can get a refund (credited to your Yahoo Wallet)--even after saving, printing, and reading the doc--for up to 48 hours after purchase. Have problems along the way? Yahoo offers decent online help, and if you don't find what you're looking for, the company gives you plenty of opportunities to get in touch.

Overall, the $4.95 subscription plan is an incredible deal for folks already familiar with Yahoo's interface. For a great price, you get access to a broad range of articles. However, serious researchers who are working against the clock will be annoyed by the missing summaries and erratic results; they should invest in a subscription to LexisNexis instead.

Yahoo Premium Document Search's interface won't win any design awards, but it is simple and easy to use.

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