Network: CD-Roms: The joy of useless facts

Want to know all about goats? Maybe not, but William Hartston finds they're a good test of an interactive encyclopedia

A couple of years ago, Oxford University Press produced two CD- Rom titles - Oxford Compendium and Oxford Reference Shelf - each with a variety of reference titles on a single disc. Although the search mechanism was effective enough, and the contents were of OUP's usual high standard, moving from one reference work to another was confusing and liable to produce a repetition of material when you jumped from, for example, the Dictionary of Quotations to the Dictionary of Modern Quotations.

The new Oxford Interactive Encyclopedia is a similar amalgam of existing OUP encyclopedias and dictionaries, but joined together so wellthat you can hardly see the seams. In the spirit of good infotainment, there are also about 80 video clips and animations. For pounds 39.99, this is outstanding value.

Before rushing out to buy it, however, you should think carefully about whether to invest another pounds 10 and get the World Book Multimedia Encyclopedia UK edition from IBM, at pounds 49.99. As well as containing all 22 volumes of the printed version and a two-volume dictionary, it includes an entire extra diskful of video and animated simulations, intelligently indexed from the main disc to avoid the irritation of too much disc-swapping.

To compare these two encyclopedias, I decided to see what they could tell me about two topics of current interest: goats and the number 103.

The Oxford Interactive told me there are 26 species of goat, and the animal was domesticated around 7,500 BC. It also provided pin-up photos of the angora goat, the Rocky Mountain goat, a Pehul shepherd with goats, Big Goat Lake in Alaska and Goat Fell on the Isle of Arran (misspelt "Arron" in the caption). Then it gave me a guided tour of the new Globe Theatre, which, as far as I could tell, had no relevance to goats. I went on, however, to learn about the goat moth (which has large, wood- boring caterpillars that smell of goats), goat-face grass, and the European nightjar or "goatsucker". I was also led, for no discernible reason, to a goatless list of soft drinks.

The World Book provided pictures of the Nubian goat, Toggenburg goat and bezoar goat, then told me about cowgirls in a goat-tying event at rodeos, goat water (the national dish of Monserrat), Amalthea (the goat that nursed Zeus as a baby and whose horn, cornucopia, produced ambrosia and nectar), the Phoenicians who, in 600 BC, made soap from goats' fat and ash, and William Francis King, the "Flying Pieman", who carried a 42kg goat from Sydney to Parramatta in seven hours for a bet.

The Oxford Interactive told me there were about 103 species of crow, 103 days a year the mistral wind blows and 103 days that China's "Hundred Days Reform" lasted in 1898. The World Book fought back with the 103 people per square kilometre in south-east Asia, 103kg maximum recorded weight of a mountain lion and 103kph that a wind has to be to reach storm force on the Beaufort Scale.

These are both superb products at low prices, but for wider coverage, more up-to-date material and greater reliability of search results, the IBM World Book is well worth the extra tenner.

Oxford Interactive Encyclopedia (pounds 39.99, The Learning Tree); World Book Multimedia Encyclopedia (pounds 49.99, IBM).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Full Stack Software Developer - £80k - Javascript / MEAN

    £45000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Ambitious, entrepreneurial busi...

    Recruitment Genius: Fitter - Plant / Tool

    £20000 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Fitter is required to join a ...

    Recruitment Genius: Sage 200 Consultant

    £30000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They have a unique reputation f...

    Recruitment Genius: Communications and Graphic Design Officer

    £14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This UK wide voluntary organisa...

    Day In a Page

    Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

    Solved after 200 years

    The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

    Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
    Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

    Sunken sub

    Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

    Age of the selfie

    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
    Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

    Not so square

    How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
    Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

    Still carrying the torch

    The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

    ...but history suggests otherwise
    The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

    The bald truth

    How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
    Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

    Tour de France 2015

    Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
    Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

    A new beginning for supersonic flight?

    Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
    I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

    I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

    Latest on the Labour leadership contest
    Froome seals second Tour de France victory

    Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

    Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
    Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

    The uses of sarcasm

    'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
    A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

    No vanity, but lots of flair

    A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
    Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

    In praise of foraging

    How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food