This month, the two picks include an impressive Spanish-language reference collection from the Gale Group (for which I write monthly reviews, one of which was on this product), and an excellently edited and presented bibliography about scholarly electronic publishing by a real information professional, Charles W. Bailey, Jr. Although I have never met him personally, I have been using his database for many years to stay up-to date and informed. The pan is JournalSearch.com, which claims to be a leading information research service for retrieving journal and magazine articles, but could not convince me that this was so.
The Gale Group, in partnership with the Spain-based publisher, the Oceano Group, offers a mighty online collection of about a hundred Spanish-language encyclopedias, dictionaries, and almanacs. With its unprecedented breadth, it dwarfs the small pockets of Spanish reference works offered by Grolier, MicroNet, and Microsoft. The individual items range from the small Diccionario de Astronomia to the 10-volume Historia Universal and the 20-volume Gran Enciclopedia Interactiva Oceano. Multi-volume series such as the Historia del Arte, the Razas Humanas (Human Races), and Historia Natural fall, by size, in the middle. The topical coverage is equally comprehensive, with volumes ranging from art to zoology, plus medicine, science, business, psychology, and religion.
The geographic scope of Consulta covers all Latin American countries, each of which--except for Panama, Cuba, and Dominican Republic--has its own encyclopedia in the collection. Although the Dominican Republic and Cuba are Caribbean geographically, as is Haiti, these countries are as much Latino and Hispanic (there is a reason for calling the region Hispaniola) as the Spanish-speaking countries of Central and South America and deserve their own encyclopedia in Consulta. (A Spanish translation of the Encyclopedia of Cuba published in early 2003 by Greenwood Press would be a perfect shoe-in.) Many of the titles are Spanish translations of Gale reference works, but encyclopedias and dictionaries of Oceano, its imprints (like the Gallach Institute), and other publishers (like the Italian publishing powerhouse, Bompiani), also grace the collection. [Editor's Note: A Gale spokesperson points out that Panama, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic, although lacking an encyclopedia, are covered in volume 5 of Geografia Un iversal, with essays/sections devoted to them.]
Certainly, there are overlaps among the individual works. In libraries having the print versions, patrons may not be inclined to thumb through each title to find something more about, say, Frida Kahlo. The beauty of being digital and allowing the qnick discovery of even a passing mention of a person, country, or painting is multiplied when you can do so in so many volumes with a single search. While the biography of Kahlo in the Diccionario de Biografias may be shorter than the one in Grolier's Cumbre or in Microsoft's Spanish-language Encarta, Consulta has a long entry about the artist in both the Grandes Personajes (Great Persons) and in the Historia del Arte that really gives a well-rounded picture. For example, Kahlo's quote in the Grandes Personajes ("They considered me surrealist. That's wrong, I've never painted dreams, what I depicted was my reality.") and the following paragraph leaves no doubt about this issue. The Diccionario de Biografias only alludes to it, in almost mincing words sounding like a politically correct press release. This latter source, however, deserves credit for being very cm-rent in incorporating his 2003 Golden Globe Award in its entry about director Pedro Almodovar--only days after the event.
Beyond the traditional reference works, there is also a full-text archive of 60 Spanish-language journals (mostly arts and humanities and general interest) and about 1,600 classic literary works and historical documents. …