Focus – Encyclopedia Britannica 2010 Ultimate review

sixty million words spread over seventy-six thousand articles
Photo of Focus – Encyclopedia Britannica 2010 Ultimate

There are some simple rules in life. If you want to know the time, ask a policeman. And if you want to know the capital of Sri Lanka, ask Encyclopedia Britannica 2010. Either that or Google, although as we mentioned in our review of the 2009 version, the keepers of the DVD Britannica are keen to stress the thoroughness of their fact checking processes in comparison to the almighty Internet’s element of dubiousness.

The 2010 incarnation of Britannica retains the same core design of three separate encyclopaedias. There’s the main Britannica library, a student library with intermediate material aimed at 10- to 14-year-olds, and a children’s library featuring introductory content pitched at 6- to 10-year-olds.

Naturally, the bulk of the main content remains the same well written and researched material, with plenty of images and video served up alongside. Nothing has changed with the smart and user-friendly browser-style tabbed interface, either, although nothing much needs doing there anyway.

Of course, the articles and various sections of the program have been updated. The Book of the Year, a collection of notable people and events in various fields from sports to computers, now has a 2008 section with a large new wedge of content.

Once again, some essays on hot topics are included, such as an overview of the financial crisis. It’s reasonably well written, although some points made seem very much in favour of the “spend” approach the establishment has taken, and the way it has “worked” (which is certainly arguable and will be judged in the future, we reckon). Nonetheless, the Book of the Year remains one of our favourite sections of the encyclopaedia to spend time browsing around.

In fact it was when ferreting about here that we came across the Nobel Prizes. Given that Obama only received the 2009 Peace prize a few weeks back, we didn’t expect this would be included anywhere in the encyclopaedia. However, the article on the Peace prize contained a link to further details in the online Britannica resource, which we hoped might be fully up to date.

It isn’t at first glance: if you follow the basic link from the program, you won’t find anything quite so recent on Obama. However, if you subscribe to the premium Britannica updates service, all the most recent information is uploaded here monthly, including the details of his award.

You get six months of free access to these updates included in the package, which is a nice touch. Less so is the fact that you have to submit credit card details to activate the free subscription, and remember to cancel it before any money comes out when the six month trial is up. It would also have been useful for the program to update its content via the website: sadly this doesn’t happen, so you’ll need to go online to obtain the very latest data on a topic.

Aside from the content and Book of the Year updates, the only fresh element introduced to the Encyclopedia Britannica DVD for 2010 is a new section of biographies. This is entitled Heroes & Villains and catalogues a number of famous revolutionaries and spies, philanthropists and serial killers to name but a few.

Each entry contains a picture, introductory paragraphs and a link to the person in question’s full Britannica entry. Sadly, the presentation of the biographies remains the same as it did last year with the World Leaders section; in other words, fairly clunky long lists and minuscule text. Still, it’s yet another novel way to sift through the encyclopaedia’s hefty content, and you’re certainly never short of angles from which to explore this DVD.

Company: Focus

Contact: 01889 570156

In the innovation stakes, Encyclopedia Britannica 2010 is a bit disappointing. This year's additions are very thin compared to, say, last year when two new sections were rolled out (the biographies and Book of the Year). Essentially that leaves 2010 as a content update, although don't get us wrong: it still remains a hugely impressive DVD resource.