Encyclopedia Britannica 2002

Encyclopedia Britannica 2002
ISBN #0852297890
$40 US approximate street price

This is “the review that almost never got written,” due to months of waiting for an OS 9 version of the Britannica 2002 CD following the publisher’s mistake by initially producing an OS X only (I’m not kidding) edition. David Weeks, David Price, and I have now each used various Macintosh versions of the CD and DVD Britannica 2002, and my friend Steve has been using both CD and DVD editions on Windows for several years.

What follows is Nemo’s appraisal, with Steve’s rebuttal comments in [brackets]. This review is an example of the complementary situation where an official reviewer, Nemo, has much less experience with the product than an actual user [Steve]. MyMac.com says it all!

Installation of the two-disk CD set is easy, once you decide if you want the Data Disk’s resource info to be parked on your hard disk (recommended if you have lots of storage space) or to be read from the CD itself. I chose not to install the Data Disk’s contents, and I have mixed feelings regarding this decision.

[Maybe it was due to having had an earlier version (the first, whichever that was), but when the 2001 version came out as both CD and DVD, there was no price difference in the offer I received. Even if there had been, the DVD would have been more than worth it because it removes the need for ever needing to swap disks in order to access features like media, Timelines and whatever else was on the second disk. In other words, I use the DVD without having everything downloaded on my hard drive and it works VERY satisfactorily.]

If you have ever used a computer-based encyclopedia before, navigating through Britannica 2002 is straightforward, if a bit erratic in speed.

[As far as erratic speed goes, I haven’t noticed any problem. My new(er) HP has 128 megs of memory and I have no trouble running Britannica DVD. On my old laptop with 32 megs (and the original version of Britannica on CD) running the program was a real problem. Indeed, I liked the program so much that it motivated me to get a newer computer.]

The range of included content is huge, [now there is an understatement!!!!] but the depth of the articles varies from sensational to mediocre.

[The Britannica has always had the reputation of being very serious and extremely thorough. If a particular article seems to be of ‘mediocre depth,’ it is undoubtedly because the editors felt it was a topic that didn’t deserve more space.]

This is definitely a multimedia product, but you will soon expect more than plain text on citations that would beg for it, and be awed by the ambitious multimedia aspect of other listings that would not. See my point? [I suspect the addition of media was only an attempt to try to increase sales.]

Students ranging through high school and beyond will find it helpful, but no match for a well-stocked library, complete with reference librarian. At this price, who can complain?

[As far as that hypothetical user is concerned: if you are a very serious high school student, a serious college student, and any one beyond that (academic types, researchers, New York Times addicts, etc.), I would say that the Britannica is the one piece of software that you need to have after your word processor.]

Need a handy world atlas and dictionary? They’re here. Additional features on Britannica CD’s opening “Home” screen include a multi-format Research Organizer [I’ve only just started experimenting with this and it is a winner. Students with a tendency towards plagiarism: watch out!] and a web-based Update Center. I have not used either one, but both add value to the package.

A hot-linked Knowledge Navigator helps you do topic-related searches when all you have is a snippet of info to start with. I typed in “turkey” and here is what I landed: turkey vulture (bird), Turkey (history of), turkey (embroidery), Turkey (country), turkey trot (dance), and turkey (bird). Fascinating concept. Wish I had a few thousand spare hours to play around with Knowledge Navigator, while learning how to do the turkey trot. In the main Search panel, “turkey” gives me 1786 articles, two images, and one map, but no tables, audio, or video.

[No TABLES when you searched the word turkey? The only table I would want concerning turkey is the one supporting my dish full of turkey meat. BUT, if you had decided that you wanted to know the history of western philosophy, your Britannica DVD would give you more information than several hundreds of dollars worth of books.]

Also in Search window, clicking on “Web’s Best” gives me seven additional in depth articles from the Internet, rated and ranked by Britannica’s editors. These web links are my favorite aspects of Britannica 2002, on top of the handy instant reference material.

[I agree. Nothing like having someone with experience peruse the field and make a few recommendations.]

David Weeks uses the more expensive DVD version on his TiBook. Content is essentially the same, with the addition of more QuickTime movies on diverse subjects. If you can afford it and have DVD capability, you will probably like the extra multimedia.

Evaluating Britannica 2002 for the average MyMac.com reader is not an easy task, so I won’t try. My personal response, using:

Nemo’s MyMac.com “Q/D/S/V Standard” for all product reviews:

Q = QUALITY, including ease of installation, performance, stability, and general happy relationship with everything on my system;

D = DOCUMENTATION, both printed and electronic, plus appropriate website material;

S = SUPPORT, in the form of email, phone, and web updates;

V = VALUE, which includes both original cost and subsequent expenses;

is a rating somewhere between

MacMice Rating: 3 out of 5

Shows promise! Could be better, but a product worth watching


MacMice Rating: 4 out of 5

A very decent product. Worth the time and investment, but look for competing products.

Depending upon the demands of the user and how much time s/he is prepared to spend navigating software and webware. You should be able to find both CD and DVD editions at very competitive prices. Whichever one you purchase, if you make the effort to use Britannica you’ll find it well worth the cost and elbow grease.

[If I had to rate it on a scale of 1 to 5, I’d give it a 4.5. IF it had had not only all the text of the complete Britannica but all the pictures as well, and skipped all the media icing, I’d rate it even higher.]

Thanks, Steve!

John Nemerovski

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