Extras - Product Review: KnowX - Public Records on the Web

Reference Librarian
Katten Muchin & Zavis, Los Angeles


Pros:

  • Free searching and summary display, inexpensive access to detail records.
  • Good data quality from Information America.
  • Easy to use.
Cons:

  • Customer support by e-mail only.
  • Less flexible searching than LEXIS.
  • Can get expensive if you need large numbers of detail records.
URL:       http://www.knowx.com

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I'm spoiled. I work for a large law firm and we subscribe to all of the major databases. Logons are fast and easy and continual vendor supplied training and customer support lines keep me sharp. Yes, they can be costly, but because clients also pay for my time, they can be the most efficient choice for my public records research. However, there are those in need of public records that do not subscribe to the big databases or even if they do, need a low cost alternative. KnowX accomplishes this goal.

Billed as entirely a virtual business, KnowX provides a comprehensive source of public records on the Internet. Searching and viewing of basic summary information is free. Cost for detail information is priced on a per-record basis. The data for KnowX comes from the Information America databases and includes state corporate and limited partnership records, UCCs, liens, judgements, bankruptcy records and lawsuits. There are plans to add more databases as well as to add links to other free sources on the internet.

Once logged on to the KnowX internet site, one can search in a variety of ways through a variety of combinations of public record databases, all at no cost. The searching is easy and knowing the databases are from Information America gives me confidence in their quality and timeliness. Free results display in a basic summary. In some instances this may provide enough information, concluding a completely free session. However, for those in need of more, there are full summary and detail options available for a fee.

Detail records are as low as $.95, with most about $7. Discount packages, priced at $9.95 to $19.95 per month, allow for results to be displayed in full summary rather than basic, and reduce the cost of a detail record up to 50%. These full summary results can be crucial to a cost efficient search. My lawsuit search in the state of California for an average name turned up 20 hits. The basic summary only tells me if my subject is a plaintiff or defendant. The full summary, however, gives me the date and county, thus allowing me to purchase only the relevant detail records. A KnowX representative tells me that pricing is subject to change at any time and as feedback is coming in from users, plans are already on the drawing board to offer more pricing options.

To purchase a discount package or a detail record one must register online and provide credit card information for payment. Qualifying companies can set up an account and receive a monthly bill. Although Client ID information can be entered, presently there is no provision to have multiple logons and passwords per single billed entity. Customer support is entirely via e mail and one of the big factors in keeping their costs low. I am told that email support is staffed 20 hours per day and so far all of my messages have been responded to very quickly, within a few hours.

In certain instances KnowX can be the most efficient means to a public record. However, when time is an issue or the searched subject results in many hits, other services may be the better choice. I still like the CDB Probe searches for the ease in searching a comprehensive database very quickly. There is a nominal charge for the probe search itself, but like KnowX, one can then view summary results and pay only for the detail that is selected. And with the CDB $100 cap, it is a great buy for those searches with lots of relevant hits. The "no matches" feature of CDB is also a plus. A KnowX search with no hits simply indicates No Records Found - Please see Search Tips, leaving me questioning my searching abilities. KnowX marketing tells me that their no cost searching doesn't penalize the user when an exact name is not known. Personally, I prefer the powerful Lexis searches in these instances, allowing the use of universal characters, truncation, and the ability to "or" different possibilities together. And Lexis is still my first choice when I have several names to search, as I can "or" them together for the same one search charge.

I'm not ready to give up any of my other public record providers, but I'm sure that KnowX will quickly become one of my frequent sources.