Monday, March 22, 2010

2003 Encyclopedia update

by Susan Awe and Barbara Bibel

This year’s Encyclopedia Update features reviews of four print sets - Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopedia Americana, The New Book of Knowledge, and World Book Encyclopedia. We also take a look at their online counterparts as well as Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia.

From our perspective, the encyclopedia world has been fairly quiet over the past year. Compton’s Encyclopedia reverted back to its previous owner, Britannica, and they supplied us with statistical data about the new edition, which we included in our “Encyclopedias in Print” chart, although the set itself was not available in time for us to review. We hope to include it in a future issue along with New Standard Encyclopedia, which also had a late publication date.

Online encyclopedia publishers have been taking a more global approach lately, bundling several different databases together to supplement and expand their encyclopedia offerings. Grolier Online has offered simultaneous searching of Encyclopedia Americana, Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia, and New Book of Knowledge, along with several other databases, for several years. Britannica recently followed suit by adding Britannica Encyclopedia to Encyclopedia Britannica Online. This year, World Book has changed the name of World Book Online to World Book Online Reference Center to reflect a shift away from the stand-alone encyclopedia model.

For last year’s update we paid particular attention to how encyclopedia publishers handled September 11, a challenge because it occurred relatively late in the year. This year we decided to focus on its aftermath, including events leading up to the war in Iraq. We also took a look at the entries for some key players – Tony Blair, George W. Bush, and Hamid Karzai, among others. In addition, we checked the handling of some emerging diseases, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and West Nile virus.

Encyclopedia Britannica. 32 v. 15th ed. 2003. Britannica, $1,395 (0-85229-961-3).
Encyclopedia Britannica Online. [Internet database]. 2003. Britannica, pricing begins at $195/year. http://www.eb.com/

Encyclopedia Britannica (EB) continues to be an authoritative resource. The 64,900 articles are signed by more than 4,300 contributors and have extensive bibliographies. The latest printing of the fifteenth edition retains the Micropaedia/Macropaedia/Propaedia structure that originated with great fanfare in 1974: short articles for quick reference in the Micropaedia, in-depth treatment of broad tropics in the Macropaedia, and an “outline of knowledge” in the Propaedia.

New entries cover the September 11 attacks, al-Jazeera, and al-Qaeda, all in the Micropaedia. September 11 attacks includes a map showing the flight plans of the doomed planes and a picture of the World Trade Center in flames. Others among the 115 new entries include Barbie, Botox, Designer drugs, Ecoterrorism, Ethnic cleansing, and Swiss Army knife. Among the 64 rewritten or revised articles are Crusades, Geometry, Intelligence and counterintelligence, and Solar system. Twelve new maps and 180 new illustrations make the material more current. There is no coverage of SARS (too new), but users will find West Nile virus. Unless attached to rewritten entries, the bibliographies have not been updated.

The Macropaedia article on Afghanistan is 12 pages long and has been updated in several places to reflect changes in 2002, although there is no mention of Hamid Karzai’s election on June 13. The index misses the reference in the article to the September 11 attacks. The Micropaedia article on George W. Bush, which ends with the November 2002 elections, mentions his efforts during that year to focus world attention on Iraq. The Macropaedia article on Iraq ends in 2000, but users are referred to the Britannica Book of the Year for later developments.

We particularly like EB’s coverage of non-U.S. topics. Macropaedia articles on other countries and on cities outside the U.S. can be extensive. United Kingdom is 137 pages; Vienna and Venice are 6 and 8 pages respectively; West Indies is almost 70 pages. We also like the extensive, scholarly Macropaedia bibliographies. The three-part structure can be cumbersome, so users should check the index first (in fact, the Macropaedia often prompts them to do so) in order to take fullest advantage of what EB has to offer.

Encyclopaedia Britannica Online (EB Online) has a clean, uncluttered home page with a single search box. Users may search with keywords, Boolean operators, and truncation. They may also browse alphabetically or by broad subject area. A spell-check option in the search engine will help them find what they need even if they are unsure of the correct letter combination. They have a choice of searching Encyclopaedia Britannica, Britannica Student Encyclopedia (geared toward middle-school students), Britannica Internet Guide, or video and media separately or in any combination. These tools offer more than 123,000 articles, 22,000 illustrations, 215,000 dictionary entries, and 167,000 web links. In addition to the encyclopedia, users have access to the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary and Collegiate Thesaurus, as well as a world atlas. Updates are monthly.

Britannica states that EB Online has 264 new and 2,565 replaced articles. Among the new entries are those for select U.S. counties, absent from the print set. Some articles differ substantially from corresponding entries in the print set; the new one on Pope John Paul II, for example, is more current and much more detailed and also adds a list of further reading, which the Macropaedia article does not provide. Because of the option to search several databases, users also have access to 272 new and 589 replaced articles in Britannica Student Encyclopedia and 505 new articles in Britannica Elementary Encyclopedia. As with the print version, users must refer to the yearbook for more current information on Afghanistan; this is true for all of the articles about countries. The article on Iraq ends with the Persian Gulf War, although the Britannica Student Encyclopedia entry is somewhat more current. The George W. Bush entry is more up-to-date than that in the print set, with information from March 2003 about the launch of U.S. attacks on Iraq. The Saddam Hussein entry has been similarly updated. Oddly, among the Web links for the new September 11 attacks article, users will find sites for the Starr Report (issued on September 11, 1998) and Apollo 11. The video and media links are irrelevant, too. They include videos on heart attacks and plants (“defenses against attacks”).

There is no information on SARS. Entering severe acute respiratory syndrome produces information about the respiratory system and links to articles on various syndromes. A brief article about West Nile virus has basic information and good Web links to the CDC and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, but the video links are strange. There are videos on the Virginia Woolf-Vita Sackville-West relationship, the Notre Dame-West Virginia football game, and the Nile in ancient Egypt, among others.

There are a number of special features available in EB Online. The Workspace button on the menu bar allows users to mark articles and store them for research projects. Britannica Heritage has articles from previous editions by notable contributors as well as galleries of maps and images so that users can learn about the “changing nature of human knowledge”. Interactive time lines charts the development of the arts, sciences, technology, etc. The world atlas allows users to click on a part of the world to see regional maps or on index tabs to select political, physical, or economical maps. To see a map of an individual country, one must click on it to go to the article about the country and then click on the map.

The Annals of American History Online is a collection of primary source material from more than 1,500 authors. It includes speeches, landmark court decisions, and essays. Users may search alphabetically by author; by subject (discrimination and diversity, war and peace, American democracy, etc.); or by a time period. The Britannica Online School Edition [RBB N 1 02], for K-12 students, is also a special subscription. It includes the Encyclopedia Britannica, Britannica Student Encyclopedia, and Britannica Elementary Encyclopedia as well as extra materials for teachers to use in the classroom.

Conclusion: EB retains its position as an excellent scholarly reference source for public, academic, and secondary-school libraries. EB Online has current, authoritative information at several reading levels, an excellent selection of Web links, and links to magazine articles. Although it may not be as up-to-date as other online encyclopedias, EB Online is an excellent resource for academic, public, and high-school libraries.

Encyclopedia Americana. 30v. 2002. Grolier, $1,049 (0-7172-0136-8)
Encyclopedia Americana Online. [Internet database]. Grolier, pricing from $515 in combination with other Grolier Online products. Visit http://go.grolier.com for free 30-day trial.

Encyclopedia Americana (EA), known for thorough scholarly coverage since it was first published in 1829, had numerous changes for 2003 – adding 50 distinguished new contributors, adding 135 new color photographs and 25 new black-and-white ones, and revising or adding 160 bibliohraphies – in addition to ongoing projects. There are 44 new entries, among them Direct marketing; East Timor; Graves, Michael; Iguanadon; and Mississippian Culture. Aztecs, Eskimos, Microbiology, and Psychiatry are among the 29 replacement entries, and Adams, Abigail; China: Literature; Encyclopedia; Grasshopper; Hydroelectric power; and Powell, Colin are among 193 entries that have been significantly revised. A focus on Islamic studies resulted in new entries for Islamic philosophy and science and Islamic poetry and revised entries for Islam and Islamic art and architecture. The Space shuttle article mentions the Columbia disaster in February 2003. There is no entry for West Nile virus.

Last year, EA created an index entry for September 11 attacks, under which one could find citations to bin Laden, Osama; Bush, George Walker; disasters; hijacking; New York City; terrorism; and United States. The 2003 edition adds citations to New York Stock Exchange, Pentagon, and Port Authority of N.Y. and N.J. There is a new index entry for Qaeda, al. The article on President Bush is current through the November 2002 elections and mentions possible confrontation with Iraq. Afghanistan has been updated through December 2001 and the installation of Hamid Karzai as interim leader. There is also a new biographical entry on Karzai. In last year’s update we mentioned that many bibliographies have no books added since the 1980s, and this is still the case – Clothing, Compact Disc, and Consumer protection are just a few examples. The most current title in the bibliography for Computers and computer science: history of the computer was published in 1993. Air traffic control has no titles more recent than 1990; the same is true of Interior design (where the illustrations also need a serious facelift). On the other hand, the Afghanistan bibliography includes several titles published in 2002.

Encyclopedia Americana Online (EA Online) is well organized and frequently updated. The attractive splash page leads the user to four modules: Browse, American Journal, Editor’s Picks, and Profiles. Browse is an easy-to-use subject se arch; a more complex Query Builder, allowing highly refined searches, is available in the Advanced Search page. The expanded Americana Journal continues as EA Online’s weekly updated feature and is searchable by keyword as well as country. Editors’ Picks, also updated weekly, contains essays on particular topics, and Profiles assembles 1,500 frequently consulted biographies, classified by subject. An atlas and dictionary are available via the GO frame, which simultaneously searches all Grolier databases to which a library subscribes.

EA Online has added thousands of current Web links plus new maps and illustrations. Most of the articles now link directly to the OCLC WorldCat and EBSCO databases. Among the 222 new articles are Bentonville; Bush-Gore Election 2000; Gorey, Edward; Industrial archaeology; Islamic philosophy and science; Mississippian culture; Process philosophy; and Silk Road; the last four examples have also been added to the print set.

EA Online has many advantages over its print counterpart in terms of currency. Among the articles that have been replaced or significantly revised but not in print are Bonhoeffer, Dietrich; Caffiene; Carbohydrate; Ecology; Germany; Pacemaker; and Social sciences. The online version of Consumer protection has an updated section relating to the European Union and a 2001 title in its bibliography. The online Iraq article is more current, adding a paragraph with information from late 2002. Afghanistan ends at the same point as the article in the print set—December 2001—but for both countries, the online version has a more extensive bibliography with several very current titles as well as links to magazine articles and Journal entries are also the sources for updated information on Tony Blair, whose encyclopedia entry ends in 1998. There is no entry for West Nile virus, but a full-text search leads to the article Encephalitis, where it is mentioned. A Journal search results in nine documents specific to West Nile. The Journal is the only place to find coverage of SARS.

Maps are a good size and readable and print quickly and easily. Most Web links are relevant and current. The fact that Article Titles Search is the default is still a drawback. Searching for George W. Bush results in no hits because George Walker Bush is the proper heading. Another annoying feature is that the search term must be retyped in order to try a full-text search instead.

Conclusion: EA offers in-depth treatment of many topics and is a good choice for academic, public, and high-school libraries, though the appearance of the print version makes it less inviting for students than encyclopedias that use more color. For this reason, libraries might choose to skip the print set and opt for EA Online, which has made improvements in user-friendliness and is the first online encyclopedia to offer an ADA-compliant version.

Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia. [Internet database] Grolier, pricing from $415 in combination with other Grolier Online databases. Visit http://go.grolier.com/ for free 30-day trial.

Designed for students in grade five and up, Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia (GME) launched a new version, 3.0, in May 2003, with a new design and an AD-compliant version. Among the new features are Today is…, which highlights birthdays of well-known people as well as historic events; new games and a Games Archive; and a How to Cite This Article link. Searches now retrieve media items as well as articles, listing each separately in the results. The weekly News feature now offers a link to a “selection of respected national and international news stories.” Several enhancements have been made to GME’s multimedia components. For example, videos, panoramas, and maps are now linked to other related material.

The encyclopedia can be searched by keyword or title or browsed by subject. In Advanced Search, users can employ Boolean operators and wild cards. Articles tend to be shorter than those in other encyclopedias, reflecting GME’s roots as the short-entry Academic American Encyclopedia, which Grolier published in print form from 1980 to 1998. Entries are linked to media, to Web sites, and to full-text articles from 700 periodicals available through EBSCO Content Solutions. Among the 600 new articles added since February 2002 are African Union; Labor economics; Nanotechnology; Open source; School vouchers; and Suprefund. There are also new entries for the space probes Aqua, Genesis, and Nozomi. Additional new articles cover topics in British, Irish, and Russian history; Christian contemporary music; and biographies of contemporaries like Michael Bloomberg and Annika Sorenstam. More than 90 articles have been rewritten or replaced, among them Army, E-Commerce, Mars (planet), and United States education. Additionally, 400 new photographs, pieces of art, and multimedia have been added.

The main Afghanistan article is current through March 2003. The article on September 11, 2001, mentions the sentencing of Moroccan Mounir al-Motassadek to 15 years in prison by a German court in 2003. Both the George W. Bush and Iraq articles are current into June 2003. There is also an article on the Iraq war. We found biographical entries for Hamid Karzai and Tom Ridge. The article on SARS is current through May 2003, giving death rate and infection statistics as well as symptoms, though no periodical articles are listed under the Periodicals tab. There is no article on West Nile virus, but it is mentioned in Encephalitis.

The familiar Research Starter feature has more than 150 topics, many in the sciences. Brain Jam is the monthly feature highlighting a subject of current interest and often relates to the calendar month, such as Space Exploration and NASA for July 2003, with a picture of Buzz Aldrin walking on the moon July 20, 1969. Timelines consists of 24 main time-line screens covering world history events from 4,000 B.C.E. to the present. Printing with the Print/Email tab is easy and fast. An atlas and dictionary are available via the GO frame, which simultaneously searches all Grolier databases to which a library subscribes.

Conclusion: GME is an attractive, up-to-date resource for school and public libraries.

The New Book of Knowledge. 21v. 2003. Grolier, $699 (0-7172-0535-5).
The New Book of Knowledge Online. [Internet database]. Grolier, pricing from $415 in combination with other Grolier Online databases. Visit [http://go.grolier.com] for free 30-day trial.

The New Book of Knowledge (NBK) provides balanced, appropriate, and engaging coverage of a wide range of topics for students in grades four through six. Many appealing features, illustrations, and maps complement encyclopedia entries. For the 2003 edition, 51 completely new articles were added to the print set, among them Africa Union; Chirac, Jacques; Grief; Giulani, Rudolph; Mesopotamia; Snails and slugs; and Zoology. Fifty-three articles were replaced; including China, Conservation, Contact lenses, Medicine, Narcotics, Shanghai, and Sudan. Another 38 articles, including Arabs, Food supply, Koran, Olympic Games, and Postal Service, received significant revisions. About 1,200 new images, photographs, and works of art were added, and now more than one-third of the space in NBK is devoted to illustrations. Approximately 1,500 bibliographies were added, bringing the total number of titles to nearly 8,000.

The replacement article on Afghanistan is current into June 2002 and Hamid Karzai’s election as president of the Transitional Authority. Terrorism, war on is a new entry, and Bush, George W. and Terrorism were replaced. The Bush entry notes his address to the United Nations in September 2002, and the new entry on Tony Blair mentions the prime minister’s support for Bush’s plans to disarm Iraq. The postdeadline Columbia space shuttle disaster made it into the entries for Space exploration and travel and Space shuttles.

Each volume has its own index with blue pages, which makes it easy to locate, and there is a well-constructed comprehensive index volume for the set. Items such as pictures, maps, and diagrams are clearly identified in the index entries. Unfamiliar words are often defined briefly in the index, which is very helpful. All entries are signed, with a few words to identify the contributor; additionally, experts have reviewed some of the entries. Bibliographies appear in the “Home and School Reading and Study Guides,” which accompanies the print set and is also available online.

Articles in The New Book of Knowledge Online often contain graphics, fact boxes, projects and links to related NBK News stories (updated weekly), Web sites, articles in around 50 selected magazines appropriate for the elementary- and lower-middle-school level, and further reading lists. Longer articles have tables of contents allowing users to easily access the sections they want. Under NBK News, SummerScoops is a fun section that currently links to the Great Outdoors, Sightseeing.com, Rainy Day Fun, Summer Reading, and more. Other regular features, such as Wonder Questions, Literary Selections, and Projects and Experiments, are also found in the print set. These features, along with World History Time Line, Homework Help, and Bibliographies, are all accessible from every screen in the left frame. Encyclopedia Spotlight (a monthly topic) and Web Feat! (a fun-and-games approach to learning) are accessible only from the main page. Printing from all sections is easy to do and works quickly. An atlas and dictionary are available via the GO frame, which simultaneously searches all Grolier databases to which a library subscribes.

A Subject Browse, Alphabetical Browse, and Advanced Search are available in addition to a full-text Quick Search. A Quick Search for September 11 yielded a useful collection of 143 encyclopedia articles and NBK News stories, while Afghanistan retrieved 78 articles and news stories. Being able to retrieve articles and updates in a single search is a great feature, making Quick Search very user-friendly. The George W. Bush article discusses the president’s State of the Union speech and also the start of the U.S.-led invasion on March 19, 2003. The article on Iraq mentions the fall of Baghdad on April 9, and there is a separate entry for Iraq War. The entry for Sadaam Hussein has been updated to record the fall of his regime. Users can link to information on both SARS and West Nile virus in NBK News and encyclopedia articles.

Conclusion: In both its print and online version NBK is well suited to its young audience, a group generally underserved by reference publishers. Its many appealing features encourage children to explore and to develop good research skills.

World Book Encyclopedia. 22 v. World Book, $849. (0-7166-0103-6). World Book Online Reference Center. [Internet database]. World Book, pricing from $395. Visit http://www.worldbookonline.com/ for a free 30-day trial.

World Book (WB) continues to be a first choice for libraries, schools, and homes. The 2003 print edition has 114 new articles. They include Blood doping, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Hot spot, and Intellectual property. John Ashcroft, Hugh Maskela, Marcia Muller, and Sara Paretsky are a few people covered in the new biographical entries. Some 184 articles have been extensively revised or rewritten, among them Cancer (disease), Basques, Element – chemical, Immigration and Naturalization Service, Khyber Pass, and Food additive. More than 190 maps have been revised, and 350 new photographs have been added. The editors have revised 294 bibliographies. This year’s special volume is World Book Focus on Terrorism, which contains encyclopedia articles and special reports on topics such as “The Attacks on September 11” and “Homeland Security: Fighting Terrorism at Home”.

World Book is almost always up-to-date, although its early revision deadline – printing of the 2003 edition began in October – means that it misses events that some other encyclopedias are able to include. New entries cover the Department of Homeland Security, al-Qaeda, Tom Ridge, and the Taliban. The Afghanistan entry has been rewritten and is current through the establishment of the transitional government in April 2002. The article on terrorism covers new airport security procedures. The entries on Tony Blair and George W. Bush both make reference to the war in Afghanistan abut have not yet been updated to reflect later events. Also not yet updated are the entries for Sadaam Hussein and Iraq. There is no entry for Hamid Karzai. The index is detailed and easy to use, including page numbers for illustrations and maps.

In July the name World Book Online was changed to World Book Online Reference Center (WBORC) to reflect the fact that it offers access to multiple databases. The World Book database contains the complete text of the print edition and the World Book Dictionary as well as 8,000 articles created for the electronic version and 13,000 Back in Time articles from earlier annual supplements. Users may browse by broad subject area or media type or use the Basic or Advanced keyword search functions. The advanced search mode allows Boolean operators, limits (article text, title word, atlas, media type, Back in Time, or special reports), and truncation.

The more than 800 new articles in WBORC include biographies of all Nobel Prize winners and all current U.S. senators; NBA teams; current news topics (Department of Homeland Security, LASIK surgery, Obesity); and biographies of celebrities and political leaders (Mahmoud Abbas, Julia Child, Tommy Franks). Angogenesis, Chatres Cathedral, and Microelectromechanical systems are among the revised articles. The article on Afghanistan has been rewritten with Web links to the Country Study and Background Notes from the State Department, the CIA Factbook, and the Washington Post as well as Canadian and British new sources, along with magazine articles from EBSCO Content Solutions. There is an article on the war in Iraq (here called “Persian Gulf War of 2003”) as well as a special “War in Iraq” feature. The entries on Tony Blair and George W. Bush are both more current than those in the print set, noting the beginning of the war; Hussein, Sadaam and Iraq both note the toppling of the former leader’s regime. The article on AIDS has been extensively revised, with a map showing the worldwide incidence of the disease and a brief discussion of the cost of therapy and drug availability in the Third World. A search for information about SA RS produces an article on the topic as well as a picture showing protection against the spread of the disease in Hong Kong.

Special features in WBORC include Surf the Ages, which is a set of simulated Web sites representing different historical periods. The Back in Time section allows users to see articles about important events in earlier World Book annuals. Today in History lists events that happened on that day with links to relevant articles. The feature of the month highlights an important event that occurred during that month – in July it was hurricanes. Behind the Headlines links users to articles that provide background for current events. Clicking on the More Resources box in the menu bar leads users to tools for parents, teachers and students.

In addition to World Book and its suite of features, WBORC offers access to a Spanish-language encyclopedia and World Book Research Libraries. World Book Research Libraries, requiring a separate subscription, offers eight extensive collections of primary sources in broad subject areas – science, literature, history, and so on. Clicking on the Research Library link takes users out of the World Book site with no link to return, a minor inconvenience.

WBORC is very current. Features such as Behind the Headlines are revised daily, and new and revised articles are added monthly. Web links are validated on a continuous basis. The new site design is easier to navigate, and it makes all of the features available from anywhere in the site. Articles download faster, too. The print capability now allows users to print specific sections of an article, which saves ink and paper. These improvements plus the broad range of content at several different reading levels make World Book an excellent resource for school and public libraries.

Conclusion: World Book is recommended for its high-quality, current, and accurate information in attractive print and online packaging.

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