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Budget Bytes.

As the price of CD-ROM drives continues to drop and the number of available titles increases, the base of installed equipment grows. This broadening market contributes to increased sales and competition that results in lower prices. As with most vertical market products, library-oriented titles often carry steep price tags. However, there are many lower priced titles that target the broad consumer market and have some interest for librarians. This article will describe some of the titles that librarians and consumers can purchase on a limited budget.


Librarians usually consider encyclopedias to be fairly expensive purchases. However, the CD-ROM equivalents often carry competitive price tags and may come bundled with the purchase of a CD-ROM drive. Compton's NewMedia has several versions of the Compton's Encyclopedia on CD-ROM. Compton% Multimedia Encyclopedia ($895 retail) comes in DOS, Windows, and Macintosh versions. Compton's Multimedia Encyclopedia v1.21D ($795 retail; $695 schools and libraries; $150 update price for users who have an earlier version) contains the full text of the printed version along with images, maps, charts, graphs, and high-resolution pictures. It also includes Webster's Intermediate Dictionary and an audio glossary. Compton's also has the Compton's Family Encyclopedia ($695), but the Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia ($299.95) will appeal to most budget-conscious purchasers.

Grolier's New Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia (in DOS, Windows, and Macintosh versions) retails for $395, and Information Finder by World Book retails for $599. School and libraries can obtain Information Finder for $549 or at a combination price saving when purchased with the printed World Book Encyclopedia. All of these encyclopedias began as electronic versions of their print counterparts, and their strengths generally correspond to those of the printed versions. As CD-ROM technology developed, the publishers added multimedia components.

Microsoft's Encarta ($395), on the other hand, was developed on the computer for the computer, taking multimedia into account right from the beginning. The text comes from the Funk & Wagnall New Encyclopedia. This product goes a long way to improve the reputation of this encyclopedia and to put it on a par with those discussed above. The synergy of the multimedia components contributes to a product that totals more than the sum of its parts. This encyclopedia will become the standard that other electronic encyclopedias will have to beat.

In addition to general encyclopedias, several subject encyclopedias exist, such as Facts On File, Inc.'s The American Indian: A Multimedia Encyclopedia ($295); Media Design Interactive's Dinosaurs (pounds 129); Fun Project, Inc's Magical Dinosaur Tour ($49); and Marshall Cavendish's Electronic Encyclopedia of World War II ($399.95). Those who want more compact editions may select Random House Desk Reference ($50) or Microsoft Bookshelf ($195), which contains the Concise Columbia Encyclopedia along with other reference works.

Telephone Directories

Telephone directories present another category of reference product that librarians may want to consider for purchase. These items get heavy use in almost every library. Many times they disappear, get marked up, or have pages torn out. Now that the telephone companies charge for them, electronic editions may prove to be more economical and convenient alternatives. Digital Directory Assistance, Inc.'s PhoneDisc USA National Set covers every city in the United States and lists for $1,450 (subscription with quarterly updates). The PhoneDisc USA Eastern Edition ($995) covers residents east of the Mississippi River, while PhoneDisc USA Western Residential States ($749 subscription with quarterly updates) covers residents west of the Mississippi River.

These products will get stiff competition from ProCD, Inc.'s ProPhone, which consists of seven discs: business, North East, South East, Middle Atlantic, North Central, South Central, and Pacific residential, covering substantially all of the published directory listings in the United States, with over 8 million business and 60 million residential listings. While this title may not be as comprehensive or as reliable as those from Digital Directory Assistance, the $349 suggested retail price will appeal to many buyers. Readers who don't think these prices constitute bargains should recall that NYNEX Fast Track, which only covers the New York and New England area, leases for $10,000 with monthly updates.

Those in the market for Yellow Page directories can choose from Digital Directory Assistance, Inc.'s PhoneDisc USA QuickRef ($99); Dataware Technologies, Inc.'s Speed Dial: National Business Telephone Directory on CD-ROM ($399); or American Business Information, Inc.'s American Business PhoneBook ($298), which covers over 10 million U.S. and Canadian businesses. Compact Publications, Inc.'s and Sony Electronic Publishing Co.'s Compact America ($39) lists nearly I million useful U.S. addresses and telephone numbers in a variety of categories that include business, education, entertainment, health, government, and travel.

Titles under $100

In addition to these types of materials that many librarians would consider essential purchases, there are many inexpensive discs (under $100) to select from. Most notable are collections of shareware and public domain software such as Bureau Development's Shareware Express ($49) or Between Heaven and Hell II ($99). ALDE Publishing produces many discs of this type, including Shareware Grab Bag ($99); Software du Jour ($49.95), C Library CD-ROM ($99), and PC Blue ($99). In addition, we have titles like the UK CD-ROM User Group's PC PD-ROM ($35), the Boston Computer Society Macintosh User Group's The Software Spectrum, Betacorp Technologies Inc.'s First Canadian Shareware Disc ($49.95), Quantum Leap Technologies Inc.'s CD7 and Right Stuffed CD-ROM ($99 each), Wayzata Technology Inc.'s Off-Line ($99), Power User Software, Inc.'s So Much Shareware! ($39.00 vol 2, $49 vol. 3), and METATEC Corporation's The BMUG PD-ROM 2 ($99.95) with software from the Berkeley Mac User's Group (BMUG).

Children's Stories

Many efforts at producing electronic books focus on children's literature. Texas Caviar publishes Annabelle's Dream ($85), which combines opera and a game with the story. Discis Knowledge Research Inc. has a long line of children's stories priced between $74.95 and $89.95. While under $100, these prices are quite high for children's stories. Other companies publish at lower prices, such as Multimedia Corporation's A Bear called Barney ($49.95) and EBook Inc.'s Beauty and the Beast and Sleeping Beauty ($29.95 each). Educorp specializes in economical educational software such as Educorp Stacks CD-ROM ($59.95), R3 Room, Study Room, Kids Room, and Work Room ($29.95 each), and Class Room, and Color Room ($49.95 each).


In other types of literature, Hypermedia Productions publishes Ghost Tracks ($79 plus shipping and handling), a collection of 501 classic tales of horror, mystery, and the fantastic. The text of the Bible is also available in a couple of electronic versions: The Holy Bible -- King James Version by Optical Media International ($79) and the Illustrated Bible by Animated Pixels (Publishing) Ltd. ($50).

Animated Pixels (Publishing) Ltd. also publishes the Illustrated Shakespeare ($50); and Creative Multimedia Corporation also has Shakespeare on Disc and Sherlock Holmes on Disc ($49 each). Bureau Development has editions of the works of Charles Dickens and Mark Twain in addition to its collection of Great Literature ($99), which contains 943 selections of the world's greatest literature. For those who don't want to read the full text, Bureau also publishes Monarch Notes for $99.

As for other reference works, librarians can select Innotech Inc.'s The FindIt Webster With Pronunciation (formerly The New York Times Everyday Dictionary) ($99), METATEC Corporation's The World Almanac and Book of Facts ($59.95 plus shipping and handling); Bureau Development Inc.'s Multimedia World Fact Book ($99); Quanta Press Inc.s CIA World Fact Book or The USA State Factbook ($129 list but available for less than $100 from most distributors), the University of Arkansas Press's Electronic Atlas of Arkansas ($50), or SIRS, Inc.'s SIRS Combined Index Only CD-ROM ($50 per annum).

Other educational or reference products include Dialog Information Services Inc.'s DIALOG OnDisc BLUESHEETS ($99) and DIALOG OnDisc DISCOVERY PREVIEW ($59), the National Geographic Society and IBM collaboration, The Presidents: It All Started with George ($129 list, $99 to educators and educational institutions), or U.S. Presidents ($69.95 for the DOS version from Quanta Press or $39 for the Macintosh version from Wayzata Technology Inc.); and Texas Caviar's Vital Signs -- The Good Health Resource ($95).

Animals have become a favorite topic for CD-ROM publishers. Quanta Press's About Cows ($39) has proven a best seller. Creative Multimedia Corporation followed the success of its Multi-Media Birds of America ($99) with Multi-Media Audubon's Mammals ($79). The National Geographic Society and IBM collaborated on Mammals: A Multimedia Encyclopedia ($149; $99 to educators and educational institutions) and they also have a new series that includes Animals and How They Grow, A World of Animals, The Human Body, Our Earth, and A World of Plants ($89.95 each or $395 for the series). The Software Toolworks collaborated with the San Diego Zoo to produce Macintosh, DOS, and Multimedia PC versions of The Animals.

Music Appreciation

Music appreciation seems a logical extension of the audio CD. Warner New Media produces several titles of this nature, including Brahms' "A German Requiem," The String Quartet (Beethoven's String Quartet No. 14) ($66 each), and The Orchestra: The Instruments Revealed ($79.95). Microsoft has a similar title: Musical Instruments ($79.95). The Voyager Company produced Igor Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring and Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 ($99.95 each). Microsoft has a Windows version of this latter title, selling as Multimedia Beethoven -- The Ninth Symphony ($79.95).

Desktop Publishing

Many desktop publishing products have rather high price tags. Some CD-ROMs in this category come as supplements to or replacements for printed publications, such as Educorp's Desktop Publishing CD-ROM, Highlighted Data Inc's The Illustrated Handbook of Desktop Publishing, 2nd edition ($79.95 each); or Paracomp's The Art of Visual Computing ($24.95). In other cases, these discs include collections of fonts, such as Monotype Typography Inc.'s Monotype FoneFonts CD ($49.99), Adobe Systems Inc's Type on Call ($99 plus $50 for each additional typeface), Bitstream Inc's Type Treasury ($69), and Image Club Graphics Inc.'s Art & TypeVendor CD-ROM ($99). Other discs contain images that one can use as clip art. MotherLode Inc's Sophisticated Sante Fe and Aloha, Hawaii ($79.95 each) and Educorp's Educorp Clip-Art CD-ROM ($59.95) fall in this category.


The areas of space science and meteorology also have some inexpensive titles, such as the Space Telescope Science Institute's Guide Star Catalogue ($52.95 plus $5 shipping) and Animated Pixels (Publishing) Ltd.'s NASA Space Encyclopaedia ($50). The University of Colorado Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory produce Space Science Sampler Vols. I and 2 ($25) and Voyagers to the Outer Planets ($75 or $90 with Space Science Sampler). You can also get the complete Voyagers to the Outer Planets set or individual discs directly from NASA for $6 per disc, with a minimum order of $20.


Hopkins Technology produces several inexpensive statistics databases: Agri/Stats I, Consu/Stats I, and Econ/Stats I ($65 each). The company also publishes Food/Analyst ($99) and Food/Analyst Plus ($199) that contain nutritional analysis software, and Sante ($99.95) with cookbook, diet analysis, weight control, and exercise software.


Government depository librarians already know that they can get a wide variety of titles free as depository items. Titles include the 1990 census data, the National Trade Data Bank, U.S. Imports, U.S. Exports, the County and City Data Book, Census of Agriculture, Census of Retail Trade, and many others. Educational institutions and government agencies can get other titles free also, such as Acid Rain produced by the University of Vermont Bailey/Howe Library; West Coast Time Series -- Coastal Zone Scanner Grids, Vol. 1, Version 2 (Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA); the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Alaskan Marine Contaminants Database; and the National Space Science Data Center's Astronomical Catalog Library.

Researchers or scientists can also get free copies of the U.S. Geological Survey's GLORIA Data -- East Coast, or the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory's The Einstein Observatory Catalog of HRI X-Ray Sources, The Einstein Observatory Catalog of IPC XRay Sources, or The Einstein Observatory Slew Survey.

Governmental and non-profit organisations can obtain free copies of Bancos Bibliograficos Mexicanos (Mexican Bibliographic Database) (Universidad de Colima, Direccion General de Intercambio Academico Desarrollo Bibliotecario) or DOCPAL (Centro Latinamericano de Demografia [CELADE]). School districts in Minnesota can obtain free copies of the Educational Testing Database from the Minnesota Department of Education; and the University of Maryland's Joint Education Initiative -- Earth Sciences Education disc is also free to participating schools ($30 plus shipping to others). Acquiring CD-ROM discs need not necessarily break one's budget.

Norman Desmarais serves as acquisitions librarian at Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island. He is senior editor of CD-ROM World.
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Title Annotation:affordable CD-ROM titles for libraries
Author:Desmarais, Norman
Publication:Computers in Libraries
Date:Dec 1, 1993
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