Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 142 / JULY 1992 / PAGE 84

Instant library. (books on CD-ROM) (Column)
by David English

We hear a lot about how a single CD-ROM can hold a roomful of books. It sounds great, but do you really want your books on small plastic disc? You wouldn't want your phone book available only on disc; you would have to boot up your computer every time you needed to make a phone call.

On the other hand you might like an encyclopedia on CD-ROM--you could perform elaborate searches, paste portions of the text directly into your word processor, hear music and speeches, and pay much less for the electronic version than the traditional multi-volume hardcover edition.

The company that's done the most to champion the cause of books on disc is the Bureau of Electronic Publishing (141 New Road, Parsippany, New Jersey 07054; 800-828-4766).

The Bureau not only publishes its own titles but sells other CD-ROMs as well. Its catalog is an excellent short course in the technology of CD-ROM and the many titles that are available in this rapidly changing market.

The Bureau's most recent title under its own name is Great Literature--Personal Library Series ($99). It contains over 900 classic literary works: 72 plays (including those of Aeschylus and nearly all of Shakespeare's); 75 essays (including "The Sayings of Confucius" and "The Gettysburg Address"); 31 biographies, journals, and letters (including Plutarch's Lives and The Autobiography of John Stuart Mill); 461 poems (including Paradise Lost and Rime of the Ancient Mariner); 199 fictional works (including Thousand and One Nights, Canterbury Tales, Divine Comedy, and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland); 32 historical documents (including "The Declaration of Independence" and "The Constitution of the United States"); and more.

It's a treasure trove of well-known and obscure works combined with hundreds of color illustrations, excerpts of period music, and CD-quality readings by television and movie stars. (Where else can you hear George Kennedy read Antony's "Friends, Romans, countrymen ..." speech?)

The easy-to-use search engine lets you quickly find any word or passage on the disc and organize the index by author, title, or type of literature. It may not all be great literature, and you may miss the fancy leather bindings, but you certainly get your money's worth with this CD-ROM.

You say you don't have time to read the great works of literature? You're morfe a Monarch Notes types of person? Then you'll be interested in the Bureau's Monarch Notes on CD-ROM ($99). It contains the full text of the entire collection--over 200 different titles. Use it to help you through that nineteenth-century novel course or to impress your semiliterate friends.

Actually, Monarch Notes on CD-ROM can be a valuable supplement to your reading of the great works of literature and is a useful companion piece to the Bureau's Great Literature CD-ROM. Like the Literature CD-ROM, Monarch Notes includes pictures and illustrations, as well as selected readings.

For history buffs, the Bureau offers U.S. History on CD-ROM ($395). It contains the full text of 107 books on U.S. history, including books on Pearl Harbor, the Apollo expeditions to the moon, the Manhattan Project, America's drug habit, U.S. environmental quality, black Americans, and much more. Throw in the Nixon Watergate tapes, Congress's three-volume Iran-Contra Affair report, and 1000 VGA photos, maps, and tables of historical events, and you have enough material to challenge any armchair historian.

If your quest for knowledge leads you toward a more global view, you might take on the Bureau's two world-class titles: Countries of the World ($395) and World Fact Book ($99).

Countries of the World includes 106 different U.S. Army Country Handbooks, each ranging from 200 to 500 pages. The Handbooks are supplemented with information from 151 U.S. embassies and hundreds of color maps.

World Fact Book is produced annually by the CIA for U.S. government officials. Along with the text, it includes selected maps, flags, and national anthems. No, the CIA didn't include its classified information.

All five of these CD-ROMs run under DOS. While they don't require an MPC, they will run on one. In addition, the same disc works with both PCs and Macs.

If you're looking to build up your reading library but you don't have a lot of shelf space, take a look at these and other CD-ROMs from the Bureau of Electronic Publishing.