1997 World Book Multimedia Encyclopedia

Article excerpt

Deluxe ed. IBM Corporation, 3200 Windy Hill Rd., WG16A, Atlanta GA 30339. Price: $79.95. System Requirements: Windows 95 or Windows 3.1 or higher; IBM or IBM-compatible PC, 486SX/25 MHz or higher, 8 MB or RAM (16 MB recommended); 10 MB free hard disk space; SVGA color monitor (minimum 800x600 resolution recommended); 16-bit sound card; CD-ROM drive (double speed or faster); mouse. Online access requires additional 8 MB of free hard disk space, 14.4 baud (or higher) modern, and Internet connection.

If you like the printed World Book Encyclopedia, you'll love the World Book Multimedia Encyclopedia. This two-CD-ROM product contains the full text of the printed encyclopedia, with a graphical user interface, searching of article text, and multimedia links to promote discovery. An added feature is a link to World Book Plus, an online supplement with updated articles on the Internet and pointers to selected World Wide Web sites.

A Web-like approach to navigation promotes serendipitous discovery of related information. Links are available from one article to another, from words to pictures, from articles to maps and vice versa, from dates to time lines. Double clicking on words in articles brings up the entry in the associated dictionary. Navigation within and between articles is achieved via buttons for article outlines, related articles, quick facts, and online extras. You can click on pictures and maps in articles to enlarge them. Geographic discovery is handled particularly nicely. Whenever a map is displayed, you can select "Overlays" to view such features as population, average temperatures, and precipitation. If a city or country on the map has an article, you can click on it to read the article.

Some of the articles point to associated multimedia presentations, including movie clips and virtual reality, often inconveniently located on the second disc. Although these are entertaining, they are more of a gimmick than useful supplements.

The search feature allows you to keyword search the encyclopedia. Sophisticated Boolean searching is offered, allowing you to combine terms using AND, OR, and NOT within an article, sentence, paragraph, or subheading or within a specified number of words. (I'm suspicious of the results, however; the searches BEACH AND AFRICA within the same article found some of the same articles as BEACH NOT AFRICA.) One can also apply "filters" to a search, to restrict a search to articles, maps, pictures, etc.

One of the more curious features is called "Just Looking," which brings up a random selection of articles for browsing, analogous to opening up an encyclopedia at random. Presumably a user's curiosity would be piqued by one of the suggestions, which would lead him or her down a new trail of discovery.

The "Time Frame" attempts to place historical events in context. When you specify a year, the "Time Frame" offers a selection of articles that relate to that year. When a date appears in an article, clicking on the date brings up the "Time Frame" of articles that reference that year. It's a clever way to help young students relate the events of history.

The World Book Plus opens up to the Internet, using whatever Internet service provider and WWW browser you have installed. Monthly updates to articles can be downloaded to your hard drive. …