Ereviews: Routledge Philosophy Online | March 15, 2012

Routledge Online; routledge; for a free trial, go to


Content The Routledge Reference Online Portal delivers the contents of print subject reference works in collections including Education, History (medieval, early modern, and modern), Literature, Media and Cultural Studies, Music, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, and Sociology. This review examines the Routledge Philosophy Online (RPO) module, which at the time of this review holds 60 volumes covering ancient, medieval, Renaissance, modern (16th‚ 18th century), 19th-century, and 20th-century philosophy; branches of the study ranging from aesthetics to phenomenology; and individual philosophers from Socrates to Simone de Beauvoir (about whom more later). The file is updated quarterly.

Usability The opening screen of RPO has a simple search box at the top, with a drop-down list to limit queries to keyword, book title, author or editor, or bibliography. Below that is a toolbar with buttons leading to, for example, More Routledge Online. Also featured are links to browse by subject, by subscription (a carousel displays the covers of the titles included in your subscription), a Look Up Entries box (to look up A-to-Z entries across the resource), an annotated list of recent updates, and a link to Librarian Resource Center (which was not available for review).

I began with a simple keyword search for Maimonides, which found 199 results, the first of which was in the entry for Al-Farabi, from Encyclopedia of Asian Philosophy. Clicking on Al-Farabi, I was bumped out to the log-in screen for RPO. I logged in again and was taken to an abstract for the encyclopedia, with the book cover displayed at right and a hyperlinked, brief table of contents at left. I was not taken to the Al-Farabi entry and was puzzled until, under the book title at top, I spied this bread-crumb trail in small font: ‚Ä∫ Entries A‚ Z ‚Ä∫ F ‚Ä∫ Al-Farabi. That led to the entry. This seemed a rather tortuous route to have to take, and the keyword Maimonides was not highlighted in the text.

A keyword search for Simone de Beauvoir returned 2100 hits. Gratifying, but the first display page of 20 items showed no hits for de Beauvoir, only hits for other de terms such as Université Catholique de Louvain and Publications de l’Institut de civilization. At screen left, however, was a Refine Results column, in which were listed a series of linked facets, to narrow my search by title or subject. There were four hits listed under chapter title and 23 under entry titles. Clicking on the De Anima chapter from the publisher’s The Presocratic Philosophers led to another rather perplexing screen, with the title of the book and its table of contents prominently displayed at screen left, and what, at first glance, looked like the chapter title followed by a how to cite this article statement. When I looked more closely, I realized the contents of the chapter were there, as a bread-crumb trail of small subheadings linked to the text of each section. I checked each, using the tiresome method of looking for de Beauvoir in the text but didn’t find it at all. Apparently, the de in the chapter title caused it to appear in a search for de Beauvoir. At that point, I checked out the top toolbar, starting with Routledge Online Home. Choosing first Home and then Routledge Philosophy Online took me to exactly the same opening RPO screen. Clicking More Routledge Online turned up marketing material.

Using the Look Up Entries option, I tried Socrates and Maimonides, both of which were unsuccessful. When I searched for plato, four entries popped up: Platonism, Influence of, Platonism, Cambridge Platonists, and Neoplatinism. Trying nihil in the same search box returned the entry Nihilism, Populism, Anarchism, and Early Marx and Marxism from Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Thought. It appears that users who don’t know the exact name of an entry can fish using word stems such as plato and nihil, but researchers who use an incorrect stem may end up in a strange place in the system or get nothing at all.

I ended with trying to browse, first by subject, then by Complete List of Books Here. For both of these, the display is confusing, at times downright annoying, and those bread-crumb trails play a significant role when you display chapters and have to page through the book using them.

Pricing Annual subscriptions for the collections in Routledge Online run from $680 to $3,740, depending on the collection and the size of the institution. An annual subscription for the philosophy collection starts at $2800.


Verdict I truly wanted to like this resource because Routledge’s print publications offer the highest-quality scholarship. Unfortunately, I can’t recommend this resource in its current incarnation. Its searching and display functions are outdated and poorly designed to the point of making the resource difficult to use.

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, where she's a Research Librarian at Harvard University.