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We looked at ABC-CLIO’s social studies databases in 2008, following the launch of a new platform, and recommended them for school and public libraries. In 2009, the ABC-CLIO family had a big growth spurt with the addition of Greenwood products (including Pop Culture Universe, the first database to win the coveted Dartmouth Medal). Now, the publisher has released new Academic versions of 12 databases: American Government; American History; Issues: Controversy and Society; World at War: Conflict and Society; Geography: Understanding a Changing World; World History: Ancient and Medieval Eras; and World History: The Modern Era; and, from the Greenwood side, The American Mosaic: The African American Experience; The American Mosaic: The American Indian Experience; The American Mosaic: The Latino American Experience; Daily Life through History; and Pop Culture Universe: Icons Idols Ideas. The Academic versions are intended to “serve the research needs of undergraduates in community colleges as well as students in the first two years of study in four-year institutions.” We were interested to see how the new Academic products differ from what are now called the Schools versions, intended for middle school and high school.
The chief difference lies in the Academic versions’ new Idea Exchange. Like the Analyze feature in the Schools versions, Idea Exchange provides an overview of several topics along with essays offering differing views. But the Idea Exchange questions are more complex and are accompanied by several responses in the form of peer-reviewed, fully documented, rather lengthy essays. Vince Burns (vice president, editorial) told us, “We’re looking to create a true ‘electronic journal’ with this product, so that the Idea Exchange creates a space for lively academic debate.”
Another change is that all of the Greenwood database have been redone to make the content available via the social studies database platform. For better or worse, in terms of look and feel (and the “fun vibe” that we praised in our review) neither the Schools nor Academic version of Pop Culture Universe have much resemblance to the database that won the Dartmouth Medal in 2009. Although we can’t help regret the loss of what made the Greenwood databases so dynamic and distinctive, this redesign is good for subscribers, who can now access all the databases through a common interface. The creation of separate School and Academic products makes sense, too, at least from a marketing perspective, since it expands the potential audience for all that great ABC-CLIO and Greenwood content.
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