Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Encyclopedia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite 2004

Encyclopedia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite 2004

Fall 2004 Software
Ages: 7 & Up
Price: $69.95
Platform: windows Mac
This new "ultimate" edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica is actually three encyclopedias in one (includes Student and Elementary encyclopedias targeting school subjects), not to mention two Merriam-Webster Collegiate dictionaries and thesauruses, and a World Atlas--plus plenty of other features that give elementary and secondary students an edge in study resources. The New Year in Review that explores the major news events in science, politics, sports and more from 1993--2002 in some 8,000 articles is a valuable resource by itself.

But because all the knowledge is piled high in this edition, first considerations first. The interface. How easy or tricky is it to navigate this behemoth of facts? The answer: Not too bad. Even though it contains more than 100,000 articles and 21,000 images, videoclips and audio clips on single DVD (six CD-ROMS if you're not DVD'd yet), youngsters can get the hang of reading timelines, fact-finding, researching in-depth and, most importantly, general browsing using the Knowledge Navigator feature that gathers direct and related info hits on any search. One of its most fascinating features is the Britannica Classics--with original articles by Britannica's most famous contributors, from Freud to Houdini!

The downside is that every once in a while you'll run up against outdated information that slipped through the cracks. True, knowledge is hard to keep up with--but that's the job of encyclopedias. Helpful in that regard is that included with online registration is a free one year subscription to new articles via online updates at Britannica's Web site.

If your student needs a handy guide to all things, this one is worth considering--as are the others.

Don Oldenburg   ©2004 Parents' Choice
A former feature writer and consumer columnist at The Washington Post for 22 years, Don Oldenburg is the Director of Publications and Editor of the National Italian American Foundation, in Washington, D.C. He regularly reviews books for USA Today and is the coauthor of "The Washington DC-Baltimore Dog Lovers Companion" (Avalon Travel). The proud father of three sons, he lives with his journalist-author wife, Ann Oldenburg, in McLean, VA.

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