Surveying the 1995 Encyclopedias on Disc: World Book Multimedia Encyclopedia

Article excerpt

World Book Educational Products, 519/657-1891, fax 519/657-9879, Windows, Macintosh, $149 (Canadian)

Called Information Finder until this year, World Book Multimedia Encyclopedia has been an oddity among the electronic encyclopedias: never among the best known, but always among the most respected and never lacking a solid market, particularly in the schools. Like Encyclopedia Britannica, the printed World Book is marketed through personal contact with customers--sales persons at the door or in the library office--rather than through retail (or grocery store) shelves. There are early signs that this approach may be changing, at least for CD-ROM versions. Just a few little things raise this suspicion--the name change from Information Finder to World Book, an aggressive press campaign for the latest edition, a much reduced price, and a significantly improved look and ease of use for the last of the major encyclopedias to make the transition from a DOS text-only to a Windows multimedia format. A Mac version is available, as is a text-only DOS version, which retains the Information Finder name.

Simplicity is the first thing that strikes a new World Book user. From the opening screen to the articles, everything is clearly set out and easy to follow. But what looks elementary and over-simplified reflects a determination to keep World Book as accessible as possible to all age groups and in all situations. But World Book is clearly still geared as much, or more, for schools and libraries as it is for families wanting a reference that everyone can use. …