Still the gold standard of encyclopaedias?
The printed version of the famed Encyclopaedia Britannica has been discontinued, so they only way to own it is to buy this digital version on DVD-ROM. Britannica includes 84,000 articles, a complete dictionary and thesaurus, world atlas, facts and statistics for every country in the world and lots of interactive timelines. Britannia 'classics' are especially authoritative articles written by famous contributors like Sigmund Freud, Harry Houdini and Marie Curie. It may not be as broad as the free Wikipedia, but this new edition adds more than 3,000 new entries and free monthly content updates are available for one year.
Like previous versions of Britannica this is three encyclopaedias in one – an adult version, one for kids aged 10-14 and another for those aged 6-10 – which you can switch between on the fly. Each is geared towards its specific audience, so the kids' versions have less sober interfaces, homework helper research tools and the dictionary, games and interactive tutorials feature prominently on the home page.
In use, Britannica is a mixed bag. Navigation is straightforward thanks to a simple interface which leaves tabs open as you explore the content which makes it easy to backtrack. There are lots of different ways to access the information – searching by keyword, browsing through categories, exploring by media and more. While the quality of the content isn't in doubt, the presentation is a bit dreary and old-fashioned though – many of the videos and animations are especially uninspiring.
Searching Britannica is tortuous for those used to Google's flexibility. Typing 'Robert Burns' into the Quick Search field returns nothing, searching for 'Burns Robert' produces an entry about his poetic style while 'Burns, Robert' (note the comma) finally reveals his biography. Fans of Google Earth will also find the included maps distinctly underwhelming.
On the face of it, Britannica also can't match the four million English articles on Wikipedia, but the reliability of some Wikipedia articles can be doubtful. Readers can be more certain of the provenance of the information included in Britannica and this is important, especially for students.
In the end, despite the continued flaws of this digital version, that's Britannica's continuing strength - quality information in a compact form.
Read more reviews
While the content continues to be authoritative, this DVD-based encyclopaedia could use a facelift and better quality multimedia content.
Authoritative articles; Runs on Macs and Windows; Includes versions suitable for different age groups; Free monthly content updates for a year
Multimedia elements look tired
Updating your subscription status