eReviews: Academic World Book, September 15, 2012

World Book Academic
World Book
Free trial  Username academicsa; password: raccoon (through Oct. 1, 2012) or dolphin (Oct. 2–Nov. 5, 2012)


Content
Academic World Book (AWB) is a reference and research all-in-one site aimed at college and university students. The site includes an encyclopedia, primary-source reproductions (several hundred thousand letters, books, speeches, articles, records, interviews, and images), biographies, a citation builder, an atlas (and interactive maps), a dictionary, time lines, fiction and non-fiction ebooks, tutorials and exercises about college-level research skills, a writing center, links to global newspapers, and multimedia (animations, maps, pictures, sounds, tables,
and videos).

Images and other content are searchable together, and content also can be browsed alphabetically or by subject. Users can create research portfolios through the site and save content, citations, and time lines to them. The file is updated continuously, though even World Book can’t put every bit of world knowledge in a single source, so the level of content varies according to the subject.

Usability AWB’s opening screen is so well designed I wish I could copy it to some other library sites with which I work. It features a Search box at top right, a link to advanced search, and radio buttons to do a keyword, full text, or images search.

At top screen left is a “Featured Video” (on a changing carousel circuit) and at screen right are the meat and potatoes of the site, clearly labeled and outlined. Here users will find “Research Tools” (research portfolio, citation builder, dictionary, Research 101 tutorials and exercises, writing center), article browse (alphabetically or by subject), “Collections” (ebooks, primary-source documents, biographies, media, world newspapers, pathfinders), “World Resources” (World Book Atlas, interactive maps, a “Compare Places” tool, world resource guides), and time lines (where you can “Browse and build interactive timelines on any subject”). There’s a lot there, but World Book makes the extent of the coverage clear up front without crowding the information, which is quite a feat.

I started by creating a Research Portfolio, which is easy—create a username and password, and voila!—then did a keyword search for “Scopes trial” and got 13 encyclopedia articles, three tables, one picture, one video, 20 “Back in Time” items, and four “Special Reports.” Most of the hits were right on target, except the reports, which had occurrences of the terms “Scopes” and “trial” separately.

The 58-second video revealed something I hadn’t known—that Scopes’s 1925 conviction was overturned on a technicality in 1927. The encyclopedia articles were about the trial, Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan, fundamentalism, creationism, children’s and American literature, evolution, Tennessee, the Supreme Court, and a couple of false hits that had “Scopes” and “trial” as separate words.

The “Tools” section at the head of each article features many possibilities; links here offer options to print or email the article, highlight search terms within it, save it to the portfolio previously created, click on a word to define it, translate the text, and hear the text read aloud at different speeds. The read-aloud function works well, but after double-clicking on several words in the article to define them, I couldn’t get the definition pop-up window to close; I had to click a link on the page to go back to the previous screen before the pop-up disappeared.

Advanced search offers a tremendous number of options, including searching for a phrase; by date; for all or any words; and for sounds and pictures. Users can browse the content sections by title (and in some sections, by subject or year), and do Boolean searches of all or some of the content.

I started browsing “Back in Time” articles, first by decade (I was lost for hours in the ’70s, feasting on stories featuring Lou Brock, Hank Aaron, Buddy Harrelson, Yogi Berra, Catfish Hunter, Ron Guidry, Roberto Clemente, Thurman Munson…) and then got lost again in 1939, reading about what led up to World War II, and had to force myself to quit. It’s fascinating to read period material with a forgotten perspective that adds to the history.

A science search was next: a keyword query for the term “photon” found four pictures, “Huge X-ray machine,” “Spectrum of Hydrogen,” “Particles given off by radioactive atoms,” and “Feynman Diagram,” the last of which led to an article on Richard Phillips Feynman, and then to one on quantum field theory, and so on.

A subsequent search for “postmodernism” led me through a (well-organized) maze of material on Michael Graves, Robert Venturi, John Ashbury, Malcolm Bradbury, Philip Cortelyou Johnson, literature around the world, painting, and a Research Guide on Postmodernism that included links to most of the articles I’d already seen. Also featured was a “Study Skills” section with information on writing, speaking, researching, and taking notes. These sections are informative and useful, and provide context for what to do with the material found.

Other neat features here include “World Newspapers” (choose a location from a drop-down menu and get links to newspaper sites, though the material available at these sites varies according to those third parties’ policies), “Pathfinders” (these provide links to a bevy of resources drawn from AWB content for 24 subjects ranging from Abraham Lincoln to dinosaurs), “Primary Sources” (a search for documents relating to Roe v. Wade found the full text of the Supreme Court case). Other pluses are the ebook collection—it was pleasant to find Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocence here—and a section of interactive maps, and time lines.

Pricing Pricing is based on institutional student population, with pricing for two- and four-year colleges starting at $549 for an annual subscription.

Verdict The amount and quality of the material here, and its organization and presentation, are first-rate. AWB is a reasonably priced, go-to source that will prove invaluable to many students—it offers not just text but multimedia, research guidance, and a sense of informed global proportion. Ideal for academic and public libraries.

Don’t miss Cheryl LaGuardia’s LJ column, Not Dead Yet, for her advice for baby boomer librarians, her take on what they still have to offer, and the possibilities of the intergenerational library.


Try Rosen’s Financial Literacy Online Resource for free!
Rosen Publishing developed its Financial Literacy Online resource to meet the need of schools to “provide students with comprehensive, accessible, and up-to-the-minute financial literacy content.” The Resource includes “In the News” and “Take a Closer Look” features, along with such interactive elements as audio, video, financial calculators, and polls, bringing “economics to life, in full color, with an eye toward both history and what is happening right now in the boardrooms, on the exchange floor, out in the streets, and around the kitchen table.” Financial Literacy Online Resource combines curriculum-related materials with personal interest information in an engaging and accessible way.

You can try it for free right here until October 15, 2012. Just go to: http://financialliteracy.rosendigital.com/
and use these codes to log in:
Username: eviews
Password: trial
My thanks to Miriam Gilbert at Rosen Publishing for arranging it.

More as it happens,
Cheryl

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Cheryl LaGuardia About Cheryl LaGuardia

Cheryl LaGuardia always wanted to be a librarian, and has been one for more years than she's going to admit. She cracked open her first CPU to install a CD-ROM card in the mid-1980's, pioneered e-resource reviewing for Library Journal in the early 90's (picture calico bonnets and prairie schooners on the web...), won the Louis Shores / Oryx Press Award for Professional Reviewing, and has been working for truth, justice, and better electronic library resources ever since. Reach her at claguard@fas.harvard.edu, where she's a Research Librarian at Harvard University.

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