Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

The Columbia Encyclopedia on CD-ROM

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

The Columbia Encyclopedia on CD-ROM

Article excerpt

The Columbia Encyclopedia on CD-ROM. New York: Columbia Univ. Pr., 1997. Price: $195. Requirements: (DOS) IBM PC or compatible 386/higher; MS DOS 5.0/higher; 640K RAM; CD-ROM drive 2x/ faster with MS extensions 2.0/ higher; (Windows) IBM PC or compatible 386/higher; 8 MB RAM; MS Windows 3.1; MSCDEX 2.0/higher; CD-ROM drive 2x/faster; (Macintosh) Mac 68030/higher; 8 MB RAM; CD-ROM drive 2x/faster. Printer optional.

This CD-ROM is a throwback to the days when publishers felt electronic publishing meant slapping some unenhanced, previously published data on CD-ROM and selling it for an exorbitant price. Librarians and the general computer-using population have come to expect better. To find Columbia University Press making this mistake in 1997 is particularly disappointing.

Though it is not stated in the accompanying literature, the CD-ROM appears to be based on the 1995 edition of the full encyclopedia. This work, with its 50,000-plus entries and over 6.6 million words is an invaluable ready-reference work with its concise articles and quick fact checking. The very benefits of the print version in a library environment, however, are lost in the CD-ROM version.

Screen design and layout of the text are minimal, emulating the print edition. The screen presentation of about forty different tables is poorly done, with the user forced to scroll across the screen to view much of the information. Access to these tables (such as "Nobel Prize Winners") was clumsy and provided only through the articles related to the tables. Users can search by article, subject, or keyword. All search methods are easily understood. Searching is quick, and index displays are straightforward. Users can print selected text and articles. …

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