Remember the days when encyclopaedia salesmen would knock at the door, weighed down with massive tomes of knowledge? No, neither do I, but apparently it used to happen. Then along came CD, and those poor souls had to move into other areas of entrepreneurship. Fortunate, really, as the printed version of the Encyclopaedia Britannica is (or was, as production is now over), heavy enough to cause serious injury.
Britannica’s first foray into electronic publishing resulted in a text-only CD with a copy-protection dongle and a price tag of £700. Consequently, Encarta sold very well. More recent versions have been a lot better, though, and this is the newest of the lot. Confusingly, there are actually three versions of this reference work; CD 2000, Deluxe CD 2000 and DVD 2000. The ‘basic’ version, if you can call it that, carries the CD 2000 name, while the Deluxe CD 2000 and DVD 2000 versions contain more animations and videos.
For raw content, however, all three are the same – stunning. Just for the record, there are 83,000 articles included, along with 6,500 images, 1,500 maps and an hour of video (five on the DVD version). Forget about actually searching for something; just sit back, type in a few choice words and spend the next few hours lost in a world of information and knowledge.
Quite apart from the raw encyclopaedic content, there are plenty of other inclusions, such as the Oxford University Dictionary, contemporary ‘Topic Tours’ of events such as aviation and space exploration and spotlights on areas of historical interest (‘the Millennium’ is in there, and makes interesting reading). From a practical point of view, searching the contents of the encyclopaedia is a reasonably easy process. You can either go for the standard search, which can cope with natural language questions, or select a particular timeline (ecology, exploration, technology, etc.), or use the Research Assistant for more in-depth searches.
Other useful features include the Analyst, which compares two regions or countries on a variety of levels, and the Compass, which makes clever use of maps to show the world in terms of political, religious and other views. If all that weren’t enough, there’s even more available on Britannica’s Web site, and searches within the encyclopaedia will throw up links to other Web sites too.
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