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PC World

World Book 2000: Wait for DVD

July 19, 1999
Web posted at: 3:56 p.m. EDT (1956 GMT)

by Glenn McDonald

(IDG) -- I've said it before and I'll say it again: In terms of pure value for the dollar, few software titles can match today's supercharged multimedia encyclopedia packages.

The latest entry in IBM's excellent World Book line is no exception. World Book Millennium 2000 comes in three versions: The $39 Standard edition on one CD-ROM, the $69 Deluxe edition on two discs, and the $89 Premier Reference Library on four discs. The Deluxe version basically adds homework tools for students. The Reference Library includes a Rand McNally atlas, almanacs, and additional reference titles from Merriam-Webster, among them a dictionary and a thesaurus.

World Book's generous article content, multimedia options, and study aids for students make any version worthwhile. If you want a comprehensive reference suite for the kids, go with the Reference Library--it's well worth the extra money. However, the 2000 line doesn't add much to last year's 1999 titles. So if you have DVD capability, you should consider waiting for the DVD version or buying the recently released 1999 version on DVD.

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DVD: Way of the Future

IBM only recently issued the DVD version of its 1999 reference suite. I tested it back-to-back with both the Deluxe and Premier Reference Library versions of the Millennium 2000 package, and despite the new content and features in the 2000 editions, I'm keeping last year's DVD title on my hard drive.

DVD is the future of multimedia reference titles, no doubt about it. The Premier Reference Library 2000, for example, takes up four CD-ROMs but will fit on a single DVD. This eliminates the tedious disc swapping, and with everything cross-referenced on one disc, you can seamlessly explore the various reference titles without having to reach for that D: drive.

What's more, DVD supports full-screen, high-resolution video and animation. Rather than watching that volcano explode in a matchbook-size window, you can watch the lava flow across all 17 inches of your monitor.

Unfortunately, IBM doesn't plan to issue a DVD version of the 2000 line any time soon. It took nearly a year for the 1999 DVD suite to follow the CD-ROM releases.

Surf the Millennium

The main addition in the World Book Millennium 2000 line is an interactive time line called Surf the Millennium, which features simulated Web sites for each century since 1000. The gimmick is that each "Web site" is written from the perspective of that era (you'll find The American Revolutionary's FAQ, for instance). It's a ploy aimed squarely at helping history come alive for younger students. And granted, it's a novel approach to mining the wealth of information within the encyclopedia.

Older students and adults will want to get to the meat and potatoes a little more quickly, however, and World Book lets you do that too. The browser-based interface is essentially unchanged from previous editions and it works well. You can search or browse by article subject and media, or use the Time Frame feature to cross-reference a time span with a topic. For example, a search on "technology" and "1971" yields entries on space exploration and commercial aviation; pairing the subject with "1871" produces material on the Wright brothers and hot-air balloons.

Study Tools

World Book is designed first for students. The Deluxe and Reference Library editions feature a wealth of study aids, including homework wizards to help students create reports, charts, time lines, flashcards and even Web pages (how times have changed!). I especially liked the digital highlighter and Post-It Note tools, which let you annotate and highlight articles on the fly. When you return to the entries, your electronic marks are right where you left 'em.

The articles are unabridged and well organized, offering convenient hyperlinks to related articles and online resources. The multimedia functions are good as well; they include videos, virtual-reality tours, full-color maps, photographs, illustrations, and scads of audio clips.

If you want a full-service reference suite for your home and you don't have a DVD player, World Book Millennium 2000 titles are a great investment. Those who are equipped for DVD should go with last year's Premier Reference Suite on DVD, or wait for the 2000 edition to come out on DVD. Current users of last year's CD-ROM or DVD editions should stay put; the Surf the Millennium feature and scattered additional content don't quite warrant an upgrade.

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