Monarch Notes on CD-ROM. (data base)(includes related article on CD-ROMs in Print 1992) (Software Review) (Compute's Getting Started with Multimedia Applications) (Evaluation)
by Richard O. Mann, David English
You remember the high school and college student's best friend in literature classes--Monarch Notes, the distinctive red-and-black booklets that analyze, explain, and simplify the great literary works. What's the symbolism in Moby Dick, or what was Hamlet's tragic flaw? The answers to the professor's favorite questions were there in those wonderful little books.
Now you can have the complete set on compact disc. Approximately 200 of the books, including several titles long out of print, reside on a single CD-ROM, accessible at computer speed. It's called Monarch Notes on CD-ROM (Bureau Development, 141 New Road, Parsipanny, New York 7054;201-808-2700;$99).
Aside from the fact that you have them all readily available--no more hurried trips to the bookstore hoping to get a copy before the rest of the class buys them out--the computer format expands your ability to use them. To quote small portions from the book, you just write the article out to an ASCII file and import it into your word processor. You can quickly search all 200 books for a word, phrase, or combination of words. About the only thing you can't do is carry it to class and look up the answers to your professor's questions on the spot.
Monarch Notes isn't an MPC title; you don't need Windows to run it. Although it has more than 200 recorded-voice passages and almost 300 pictures, these aren't the focus of the program. They're only incidental, adding little to what you learn from the plain text. The audio clips are mostly one- or two-line quotes, and the pictures are mostly black-and-white line drawings or lightly-colored illustrations from the original books. They weren't particularly interesting or helpful. As slow as the pictures were to appear on screen, I soon gave up looking at them.
Each Note (as the individual books are called) has an introduction to the author and his or her work, a plot synopsis, a literary analysis (often chapter by chapter), and a study guide (which often includes possible essay questions and answers and extensive bibliographies).
The Notes range from the Biblical book of Genesis to Ray Bradbury, with a wealth of material in between. While these are especially handy for a student, I've enjoyed dipping into them at random, learning about Alexander Pope, Edgar Allan Poe, and Dashiell Hammett tonight--and who knows what else tomorrow.
Happily, you can run Monarch Notes directly from the CD-ROM. It'll load faster, though, if you put the 500K program engine on your hard disk.
Monarch Notes is a superb example of the CD-ROM's ability to pack thousands of pages of fascinating material into almost no space at all.
THE CD-ROM OF CD-ROMS
You know CD-ROMs have arrived when you can buy a guide to 2,975 CD-ROMs that is itself a CD-ROM. Modeled after the series of books titled Books in Print, this one's titled CD-ROMs in Print 1992 (Meckler, 11 Ferry Lane West, Westport, Connecticut 06880; 203-226-6967; $95).
For more traditional researchers, the same information is also available in book form ($65). In the spirit of the new medium, I requested the disc version, hoping that it would allow easier browsing and searching.
Simply browsing is interesting in itself. Under the category of multimedia, I found such gems as The Date (listed as "simulation game software of how to be successful in dating a girlfriend"). It's in Japanese and is available for 9,800 yen.
To try out the search capabilities, I first looked for CD-ROMs that require an IBM PC (1,733 entries) and are in English (770 entries). The overlap for these two categories was still a substantial 589 titles.
Selecting a specific subject area, in this case, "Desktop Publishing, Clip," narrowed the list down to just 7 entries. It took only seconds to pinpoint this specific area.
If you often have to track down CD-ROM titles with only scraps of information to assist you, check out CD-ROMs in Print. It's a quick and easy way to navigate through the rapidly growing list of CD-ROMs.