Unfortunately, your access has now expired. But there’s good news—by subscribing today, you will receive 22 issues of Booklist magazine, 4 issues of Book Links, and single-login access to Booklist Online and over 200,000 reviews.
Your access to Booklist Online has expired. If you still subscribe to the print magazine, please proceed to your profile page and check your subscriber number against a current magazine mailing label. (If your print subscription has lapsed, you will need to renew.)
Free Trial, activate profile, or subscribe
Find more Encyclopedia Update
In this year’s update, we review three print encyclopedias: Compton’s by Britannica, The New Book of Knowledge, and The World Book Encyclopedia. No Encyclopaedia Britannica was published in 2008, although you can buy the 2007 edition. You can still buy a print set of Encyclopedia Americana as well, although, since the last edition was published in 2006, why would you want to?
Online, there are few major changes since our 2007 update. Publishers continue to tweak and refine their encyclopedia sites. To see a summary of each publisher’s current suites of offerings, see the “Online Encyclopedia Snapshot”. The biggest news comes from Britannica, which recently added a wiki-like function that will allow anyone to add and update content (and also released Twitter feeds, widgets, and a new service called WebShare that makes Britannica content available for links from bloggers and other Web publishers). For more about the user-generated content feature, see Barbara Bibel’s report, “Wikitannica?”
In other developments related to the evolving encyclopedia model, Google recently opened Knol (http://knol.google.com). As Google explains it, “Knols are authoritative articles about specific topics, written by people who know about those subjects.” Take that, Wikipedia. Anyone with a Google log-in can contribute, but though contributions won’t be moderated, they won’t be anonymous, either; presumably, that will make Knol more authoritative. Another difference—contributors can opt to have ads displayed and share with Google any revenue generated by those ads. Citizendium (http://en.citizendium.org), another collaborative encyclopedia project that intends to be more authoritative than Wikipedia (founded, ironically, by Wikipedia pioneer Larry Sanger), claims to now have 7,500 articles, although it’s been in beta since March 2007.
Commercial online encyclopedias have many similar features, such as spotlight and daily features, a time line, and an atlas. They generally all have basic and advanced search options and print, save, and e-mail tools, and they all provide citation information. We’ve tried to focus on what makes each one unique. Despite the dwindling number of print encyclopedias, we continue to recommend that you have at least one current print encyclopedia on hand for those patrons who still favor print, or for those times when all your computers are in use. One other note—the print 2008 World Book comes with a Mixed Sources label from the Forest Stewardship Council, meaning “wood comes from FSC certified well managed forests, company controlled sources and/or recycled material.”
All online encyclopedias were last accessed August 1, 2008. Check with the publishers for pricing options. For print and online encyclopedias in different languages, see “Encyclopedias in Languages Other Than English” in the January 1 & 15, 2008, issue.
Mary Ellen Quinn
Compton’s by Britannica. 26v. 2008. Encyclopaedia Britannica, $749 (9781593393847).
Geared toward students ages 10–17, Compton’s provides basic information on a variety of school-related topics and current events. (The 2007 Nobel Prize is the only event included occurring after the October 2007 print-revision deadline.) This year’s set contains approximately 50 new articles, including Cowell, Simon; English Channel; Rice, Condoleezza; The Wiggles; and individual entries on the planets. Many of these new articles are actually found in the Fact-Index volume instead of the main encyclopedia. Approximately 200 main-text articles were rewritten or updated, including Electric power, Electronic games, and Libraries and, in keeping with a move toward a more international approach, entries for several major world cities. More than 80 maps are new or revised for 2008, including new city maps for London and Los Angeles. In addition, there are almost 80 pieces of new or revised art. More than two-dozen bibliographies have been revised.
The history section of the article on China has some information from the late 1990s, but there is little evidence of updating within the past 10 years elsewhere in the entry, including in the section on the economy. Population figures for China are from 1996. An updated list of modern Chinese leaders can be found in the Fact Index. Only in the Fact Index will one find entries for Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama (though nothing about their presidential bids). There is no information about John McCain.
New this year is a “Ready, Set, Research!” booklet of reproducible masters for grades 6 and up to help students with the research process. Worksheets are divided into five sections: planning a project, gathering information, recording and organizing facts, evaluating information, and creating a presentation.
The concluding Fact-Index volume contains not only the set index but tables, brief articles, and many further-reading resources. The preface to the volume encourages students to “begin in the Fact-Index” when doing research. Students who follow this direction will discover that many of the numerous tables displayed here are useful and more current than the information included in the regular articles. However, this volume contains no color images and has a four-column-per-page layout with small type, making it not exactly student-friendly. In addition, most students will skip the Fact-Index and are much more likely to look for information in a specific volume.
Though Compton’s is not a preferred choice, it is an adequate basic encyclopedia for the student market.
The New Book of Knowledge. 21v. 2008. Scholastic, $750 (9780717205417).
Written for grades 3 and up, The New Book of Knowledge (NBK) presents coverage of a wide-range of topics that fulfills the informational and recreational needs of elementary- and middle-school students. NBK introduces a new spinescape this year, of an eagle soaring over mountains, but continues not to split letters of the alphabet between volumes (a positive feature for reference sets aimed at students). Child-friendly page layouts include large type and numerous illustrative materials. The mid-November 2007 print-revision deadline allowed for inclusion of the Boston Red Sox World Series victory, 2007 Nobel Prize winners, and the results of the 2007 U.S. gubernatorial and congressional elections. Major world events, such as the election of Lee Myung-bak as president of South Korea and the assassination of Pakistani political leader Benazir Bhutto, are included even though occurring well after the print deadline.
Among the 21 new entries are Clinton, Hillary; Gore, Al; Internet; Lincoln Memorial; Obama, Barack; and Pelosi, Nancy. Some 47 articles were replaced or heavily revised, including Child labor, Computers, Penguins, Population, and articles for numerous countries, among them Brazil, Egypt, Germany, and South Africa. Around 173 articles were slightly revised or updated, usually to document U.S. and world events, international elections, deaths of notable people, or new sports records and championships. In addition, there are 146 new photos (140 in color), 8 new pieces of color art, and 22 new color maps. The article on China has several paragraphs on “China in the New Century,” providing a greater amount of current information than the other encyclopedias discussed here.
NBK provides additional features intended to interest its audience, such as “Wonder Questions” and literary selections. Some new special features were added this year, including a guide to keeping hamsters, gerbils, and guinea pigs as pets. Each volume has its own index on blue pages, and a comprehensive set-index volume concludes the set. A separate “Home & School Reading and Study Guide” is a useful supplement and contains bibliographies, study guides, and curriculum-based activities for teachers, librarians, or homeschoolers.
Though obviously not every article can be updated each year, the set would benefit from updated pictures in many entries, including most of the sports articles, which show athletes unknown to today’s students. (Thankfully, Automobile racing does include a photo and mention of Danica Patrick.) Many “Important Dates in the History of . . .” charts include events only through 2003. Several articles relating to technology could use updating also.
Overall, the accessible writing, attractive design, and organization enhance the notable features of this set, making it an excellent choice for schools and libraries serving younger students.
The World Book Encyclopedia. 22v. 2008. World Book, $899 (9780716601081).
World Book continues to be a first choice for libraries, schools, and homes. It is current, accessible, easy to use, and well illustrated. The 2008 print edition has 67 new articles. They include Clooney, George; Electronic games; and Google. Articles that have been revised or rewritten include Cremation, Brain, Emotion, and Shoshone Indians. More than 400 maps have been added or revised, including those for Alabama, Alberta, California, Panama Canal, Rio de Janeiro, and Texas. There are 400 new photographs. Some 300 bibliographies have been revised.
World Book is generally up-to-date, although the revision deadline is in October, earlier than Compton’s and The New Book of Knowledge, and no postdeadline events were included. (It’s worth noting, however, that the 2009 World Book will be available in November.) The announcements of presidential candidacies appear in the entries on Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and Barack Obama. The volatile situation in the Middle East receives coverage, including the UN sanctions against Iran and the troop surge in Iraq. The article on China has some political information from 2003. The population figure for China is a 2008 estimate based on the 2000 census.
World Book’s index is detailed and easy to use, and the “Research Guide” found in the index volume is useful for students who need help organizing a project. Offering high-quality, current, accurate information in an attractive package, World Book serves a wide range of users, from elementary-school students to adults.
Britannica Online has three separate online English-language encyclopedia sites: Britannica Online Academic Edition, Britannica Online Public Library Edition, and Britannica Online School Edition.
Britannica Online Academic Edition
Academic Edition offers access to 73,000 articles from Encyclopaedia Britannica and 28,000 short articles from Britannica Concise Encyclopedia. Content, features, and functionality are almost identical to those offered in the Reference Center portion of Britannica Online Public Library Edition (see below).
Britannica Online Public Library Edition
In addition to the encyclopedia, the home page includes access to Merriam-Webster dictionaries in English and Spanish, videos, time lines, country statistics and comparisons, an atlas, quotations, and Gateway to the Classics (PDFs of works from world literature). Also on the home page are a spotlight feature (“Guide to Normandy 1944” when we last looked) and Britannica Daily, consisting of news from the New York Times and BBC, Biography of the Day, This Day in History, and Britannica Blog, containing interviews with academics and discussions about history, politics, technology, and popular culture. A recent redesign adds a New & Revised Articles section. A primary resources feature is to come.
Users can browse by the index, by articles A–Z, by subject, by year, or by contributor; or they can use quick or advanced search to locate information. Results can be saved to a personal Workspace, which requires registration.
A search will retrieve results from Encyclopaedia Britannica as well as Britannica Concise Encyclopedia, periodical articles, media (including videos), Web links, and Merriam-Webster sources. Content receives updating every two weeks, though changes are made immediately when major events occur. Senator Edward Kennedy’s brain tumor diagnosis is included in the article about him. Britannica has revised more than 11,000 articles in the past year, and on average, it adds more than 50 new articles to the core database per month. In addition to linking to magazine articles, Web sites, media, index entries, etc., articles now link to widgets that allow users to “quickly and easily explore key people, places and topics.” Each entry now also has a Comments and Suggestions utility that lets users update or add text, suggest Web sites, and more.
From the Reference Center, the user can easily jump to Britannica Kids, which has content from Compton’s and Britannica Elementary Encyclopedia. Its look, functionality, and features are very similar to Britannica Elementary (see below under Britannica Online School Edition) except that it has does not include resources for teachers or the Britannica Learning Zone for PreS–2 students. [
Britannica Online Public Library Edition is user-friendly. It is easy to search and find information at several reading levels. The country comparison feature, current news, and supplementary material from the Web and periodicals are very useful for students and anyone preparing a presentation. An excellent resource for public libraries.
Britannica Online School Edition
The opening page of the Britannica Online School Edition offers users the ability to search all of Britannica’s online encyclopedia offerings: Encyclopaedia Britannica (high school and up), Compton’s (middle school and up), and Britannica Elementary Encyclopedia (elementary school and up). Users also have the option to choose one encyclopedia and search content at that specific level.
The all-encompassing front-page search box is large and easy to locate. Search results are listed by encyclopedia, allowing students to choose their appropriate reading level or informational need. The text size is inversely proportional to the grade level. An “unsure of spelling?” checkbox helps students retrieve accurate results even for unfamiliar terms; a search on Cousteau and Coustau returns the same encyclopedia articles and multimedia images when the box is checked.
Articles in both encyclopedias link to state curriculum standards as well as to age-appropriate journals and magazines, Web sites, and multimedia. Students can quick-click on any word within the article for an audio pronunciation and Merriam-Webster definition. Article pages in Compton’s also offer a Spanish translator and a Comments and Suggestions button.
Users have the option to start their search with a specific source or move between encyclopedias by clicking on the appropriate link. Compton’s offers a colorful front page, with photographs of middle-school students (representing both genders and various ethnic backgrounds). The search box is easy to use. Other features include a subject browse; a video browse; and daily features including Important People, Big Events, and News by StudentNewsNet. There are also links to A–Z Browse, World Atlas, Compare Countries, Biographies, Merriam-Webster, Timelines, and Learning Materials. Discover Canada and Discover Mexico have been added to the Discover America feature. From Learning Materials, the student can link to other databases, such as Annals of American History (offering various primary documents plus multimedia) and several foreign-language resources.
Britannica Elementary offers many of the same features as Compton’s on its front page but in a slightly different layout and with colorful cartoon graphics instead of photographs. Additionally, it includes Activity of the Day and Animal of the Day highlights. The Featured Spotlight and StudentNewsNet are the same as Compton’s but with age-appropriate information. Britannica Elementary Encyclopedia also offers a link to the Britannica Learning Zone for students in grades PreS–2. Youngsters can Explore, Play, Read, or Draw in this interactive learning environment. Newton, a cute dog mascot, guides children through the four options, which kept this reviewer’s soon-to-be first-grader entertained for quite some time. Explore gives students the option to click on the flags on a world map or on photographs scrolling across the bottom of the screen to see pertinent videos. Play provides opportunities to play educational games about numbers, adding, colors, counting, shapes, sounds, time, subtracting, and words. Read is an online dictionary of age-appropriate words. Draw allows students to choose from different-colored crayons to draw pictures of their own choosing or one of the samples offered.
Britannica Online School Edition offers many useful features that meet the needs of students, teachers, and librarians.
Grolier Online offers users a variety of resources: the general encyclopedias Encyclopedia Americana, Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia, La nueva enciclopedia cumbre (a Spanish-language general encyclopedia), and The New Book of Knowledge as well as Amazing Animals of the World, America the Beautiful, Lands and Peoples, and New Book of Popular Science. Libraries may customize their subscription packages. The site also includes access to periodical articles from EBSCO, an atlas, American Heritage dictionaries (in English and Spanish) and thesauri for children and adults, and continuously updated Web links. There are two search platforms, GO Passport, for older children and adults, and GO Kids, for elementary- and middle-school students.
The home page offers access to all of the site’s resources from a single search box. Searching is easy with either interface. The search AIDS Africa in GO Passport produces nearly 12,000 articles, Web sites, media items, news stories, and magazine articles, but this list can be whittled down by clicking on the icon for an individual encyclopedia on the left side of the screen. Reading levels for each article are available by clicking on the Lexiles tab in the results list or at the top of the entry. Other resources available on the home page include the feature showcase; daily news headlines from Associated Press; international news; From the Editor’s Desk (which presents editorials, pro/con debates, and selected articles on current issues); and a teacher resource area with lesson plans. Scholastic’s reading programs, Read 180 Connections and ReadAbout Connections, are now linked to Grolier Online. In addition, 25,000 articles as well as all lesson plans now link to state curriculum standards. All of Grolier Online’s major encyclopedia database offerings include ADA-compliant versions
With all of these features, ease of use, and a wide range of content at many reading levels, Grolier Online is an excellent choice for public and school libraries.
Encyclopedia Americana Online
The online version of Encyclopedia Americana includes 45,000 encyclopedia articles; Americana Journal (a searchable database of around 84,000 current events from global news sources, updated weekly); Editors’ Picks (a collection of essays with Web links that serve as introductions to topics suitable for research); and Profiles (frequently consulted biographies from the encyclopedia). Users can browse by topic, enter terms in the search box, or select Advanced Search to use the Query Builder, where topics can be searched in one or more indexes. Unlike advanced searches in other encyclopedias, this one does not offer Boolean search options or check-box filters. Articles link to bibliographies, OCLC WorldCat records, periodical articles, and Web sites as well as to related articles. Encyclopedia content is updated quarterly.
Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia
Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia (GME) is intended for students in grades 5 and up as well as for adults, and this audience skew is reflected on its home page, which is more graphic and user-friendly than that of Encyclopedia Americana Online. The home page offers a daily feature; a weekly news feature; Brain Jams, which is a monthly feature highlighting a particular topic (for example, national parks)and including teacher resources; and the weekly Research Starter, the area for curriculum-based topics, many of which include national curriculum standards. Besides entering terms in the Find It Fast! box, users can browse articles by broad subject area or do a very simple advanced search. Results are tabbed by content type (Articles and Media). On article pages, there are links to relevant magazine articles and Web sites as well as to fact boxes; multimedia (including animations, panoramas, videos, audios, map essays, and interactive cutaways); and other items. Encyclopedia content is updated quarterly.
The New Book of Knowledge Online
The opening page of The New Book of Knowledge Online (NBKO) is colorful and engaging, with many delightful graphics that invite student exploration. News (updated biweekly) and activities greet users along with an Encyclopedia Spotlight and Web Feat! (games, puzzles, quizzes, and brainteasers that encourage learning and entertain). Other features include homework help, a teachers’ guide, and several features that are also found in the print set (for example, Literary Selections and Wonder Questions). The Encyclopedia Spotlight, updated three times a year and currently focusing on global warming and climate change, is a slick feature that pops up in a new window and includes video clips, podcasts, surveys, challenges (quiz questions), encyclopedia resources, and more.
NBKO offers young researchers an overview of topics as well as relevant, kid-friendly current-events articles and news features. The “Find it Fast!” search box at the top of the screen is easy to locate and use. Advanced Search allows users to limit results to encyclopedia articles, news, or images. Students can also search titles, images, subjects, or full text. Boolean operators can also be used with up to three search terms. Alphabetical and Subject Browse are also available. Articles link to related news stories, further reading, and images. Encyclopedia content is updated quarterly.
This reference source contains sufficient information to satisfy students’ school-report requirements and will meet the needs of the curious browser as well. A colorful layout, eye-catching graphics, and interesting features bring an element of fun to the research process.
World Book Web
World Book Web continues to evolve. World Book Advanced and World Book Kids were introduced in 2007. L’encyclopédie découverte, a French-language version of World Book’s Student Discovery Encyclopedia was launched earlier this year and joins Enciclopedia estudiantil hallazgos. Also launched earlier this year was World Book Discover, for students reading below grade level because of language or learning disabilities. World Book Student, a completely redesigned version of World Book Online Reference Center, will be available this fall and will offer, among other features, a Biography Center with more than 10,000 biographies and an expanded collection of videos and animations. We’ll cover it in a later issue, since it wasn’t ready in time for this update. World Book Web content includes 14,000 Back in Time articles from earlier encyclopedia editions; an atlas and a dictionary; various Explore features (Explore Illinois, Explore the World); an elementary-level Spanish-language encyclopedia; magazine articles from EBSCO Content Solutions; headlines; a Today in History archive; special reports; student and teacher resources; maps, panoramas, animations, and videos; sound clips; and Web links. Depending on the audience level, not all of the content types are available on every site, and some sites have content that is unique.
World Book Advanced
Intended for the high-school and college levels, World Book Advanced adds primary source documents and e-books to core World Book Web content. The e-books and primary sources are available by way of a partnership with the Western Standard Publishing Company, which aims to provide access to “the greatest documents of all time.” Currently, there are some 4,500 full-text e-books, some in languages other than English.
A Create and Save feature lets the user access pathfinders, use the citation and time-line builders, and set up a My Research account. Once a user has an account, a personalized list of most-viewed articles is displayed. The basic search now has options to search by keyword, full text, and images; the advanced search offers these in addition to numerous other filters. For example, a user can search for a phrase within primary sources and e-books but not encyclopedia articles. Other types of content that seem to be unique to Advanced are U.S. Supreme Court cases and presidential papers. Search results pages display citations for encyclopedia articles, primary sources, and e-books and the numbers of results for other content types. A search for China retrieves 989 encyclopedia articles, 28 primary sources, and 8 e-books along with other content. The e-books we saw are of primarily historical interest, as they are all quite old. Articles link to related World Book Web content and related primary source material (but not to e-books) as well as to state learning standards.
World Book Discover
World Book Discover, a differentiated learning site designed for students reading below grade level because of language or learning difficulties, has a number of unique features and functions. In addition to basic search and advanced search, users can use the graphical browse, a feature adapted from World Book Kids (see below). Also available from the Home page is a Life Skills feature, which offers pages in PDF for teachers and students on topics related to employment, housing, transportation, and more; these (as well as many other features of the site) could be especially useful in ESL classes. Also accessible from the Home page are an atlas; a dictionary; a time line (with build-your-own time-line functionality); a citation builder; a personal My Research feature; a visual dictionary in English, French, and Spanish; curriculum correlations; an area on research skills; and World Book Explains, a searchable video series featuring World Book editors and other experts responding to students’ questions, for example, “Why are the Beatles so great?” and (of perennial interest in the Great Lakes region) “What is lake effect snow?”
You won’t find the full range of content here that you might find on other World Book sites, but you will find maps, tables, videos, sounds, images, and Web sites. Articles, which are based on The World Book Student Discovery Encyclopedia, are equipped with a number of features that range from useful to downright impressive. Each article includes a set of Comprehension Questions written by World Book editors. Users can toggle to versions of an article in Enciclopedia estudiantil hallazgos or L’encyclopédie découverte (provided a library’s subscription includes these) or to computer-generated translations in 14 languages. In addition to the standard print, save, and e-mail tools, there is a read-aloud toolbar, which, once activated, allows the user to move the cursor to any place in the text and hear it being read. Depending on an institution’s subscription, articles link to World Book Online Reference Center (soon to be called World Book Student).
World Book Discover is well designed for an audience not specifically targeted in the online encyclopedia world until now.
World Book Kids
A bold, colorful, attention-getting layout greets users on the opening page of World Book Kids (WBK). This reference site designed specifically for younger students offers graphical browsing and searching options as well as easy-to-read content. Students can also browse maps, a dictionary, and pictures from the main page. Atlas the cartoon puppy guides new researchers on a tour of the site. In addition, if the sound icon is enabled, placing the cursor on various navigational buttons will cause the button names to be read aloud.
Students comfortable with searching WBK can utilize the large Search It toolbar. A search for Beijing returns two results—one on the city and one on China. Students not quite sure of the spelling of the host city of the 2008 Summer Olympics will return the same two results when searching Bejing. (However, searching Bajing will return results for Baking.)
Articles provide very basic information, most appropriate for students in kindergarten through grade 3. All articles contain imbedded photographs or illustrative materials. Many entries also contain quick facts, maps, sounds, and links to related articles and Web sites.
Youngsters can dig deeper by browsing under 8 subject headings: People, Places, Science and Mathematics, World Religions, Plants and Animals, History and Government, Arts, and Sports and Hobbies. Each subject heading offers numerous choices for further exploration. For example, under Sports and Hobbies, students can choose from 16 different categories, such as Animal Sports, Arts and Crafts, and Track and Field, or read one of the 5 related encyclopedia articles that appear.
In addition to searching, students can click on Make It, Think It, or Be It activities. (Teachers will also find activities aligned with curriculum standards under Teach It.) All activities are designed to explore information “not just by reading but by doing.” Play It, a multiple-choice quiz game featured on many of the articles, turns the Web site into a “maze to explore.” After reading an article that includes a Play It question, students click on the correct answer and are led to a relevant article and another question. Continuing to answer correctly allows students to navigate the site in an entertaining way.
Though WBK is designed primarily for young researchers, older elementary students can also utilize WBK for basic background information. WBK continues to be an entertaining, accessible online-encyclopedia option and a good introduction to online research for the youngest students.
Barbara Bibel is a reference librarian at Oakland Public Library, California. Shauna Yusko is a librarian at Evergreen Junior High School, Redmond, Washington.
Free Trial, activate profile, or subscribe