Magazine article Information Today

Business Almanac Bridges Print, Online Worlds

Magazine article Information Today

Business Almanac Bridges Print, Online Worlds

Article excerpt

When moveable type was invented in the mid-fifteenth century, the first typefaces were cut to resemble manuscript letters, despite the fact that print letters are easier to read than the ornate manuscript styles of the times. This was because it didn't occur to anyone to change the way the letters looked; manuscript was simply the way letters were made, by hand or by printing press. It was several years before letter design began to catch up with the new technology.

We are in a comparable period in the transition from print to online. Although online databases have been around for about a quarter century, most are still print analogues, where the online database is nearly identical to the print publication (the differences are mostly in what the online version lacks: pictures, illustrations, layout design, etc.). Print publications in unadorned electronic form nevertheless provide profound advantages over their paper counterparts--remote access, the power of online searching, and greater currency--even if the publication design itself is over 500 years old.

There are a number of online databases that have broken free of the print paradigm, with new and exciting features that cannot exist in the print medium., Most of the innovation is occurring in the sciences and biomedicine, where newer online "publications" have such elements as links to related information in other databases, continuous updating, and bulletin boards for topic-related discussions among authors, editors, and readers. Such features are just the first wave of post-print, uniquely online characteristics. Others will surely follow as writers and database designers create new ways to exploit the online medium. Nevertheless, the transition will take place very slowly, and will be determined not only by the limits of imagination and technology, but as well by more mundane restraints like cost.


The Information Please Business Almanac & Desk Reference is a case in point. The Almanac (IPBA) is a new reference work, first released last fall, from Houghton Mifflin, the publisher of the widely used Information Please Almanac. The current edition is online on CompuServe, where it aptly illustrates the advantages and disadvantages of the print analogue in the great transition from print to online.

IPBA merits a place in the grand, "everything-in-one-place" tradition of the almanac. It is an eclectic patchwork of facts, figures, and advice distilled from handbooks, texts, government documents, periodicals, catalogs, directories, and statistics collections. It covers business organization, management, human resources, supervision, marketing, finance, government services, law, international business, technology, and office practice, for everyone from small business owners to corporate executives. Like any good almanac, it is several books in one:

1. A Management Encyclopedia with hundreds of short, practical articles on business and management practice. It will tell you how to fire an employee, write a simple contract, choose an ad agency, and upgrade a computer. It will explain the different types of bonds, the grounds for sexual harassment, and what the Clean Air Act means. The articles won't make you an expert, but they will help you to ask the right questions.

2. A Business Directory for business services, trade associations, organizations, consultants, federal and state agencies, educational programs, and many others. …

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