AL—General Encyclopedias


Brockhaus, Die Enzyklopädie: in 24 Bänden [Brockhaus, the Encyclopedia, in 24 volumes]. 20th revised and updated edition (19th volume under the title: Brockhaus-Enzyklopädie)] Leipzig; Mannheim: Brockhaus. ISBN: 3-7653-3100-7: DM 4656 (preferred price valid till 31 December 1997), DM 4992 (preferred price for the complete set till 31 December 1998), DM 228 (retail price per volume if ordered individually)

The Brockhaus Encyclopedia was founded in 1796 by R. G. Löbel as the Conversationslexikon mit vorzüglicher Rücksicht auf die gegenwärtigen Zeiten and taken over in 1808 by F. A. Brockhaus.

The first volume of the 20th edition (BE20) appeared in late 1996, shortly after the final supplement of the 19th edition (BE19) was published. This quick appearance of a major new edition of the Brockhaus, just in time for its 200th jubilee, breaks with the tradition since BE15 of having a major re-edition followed by a more moderate reworking, also with significantly longer intervals between editions. The publisher cites as reasons for this break with tradition the great political, economic, and technical progress of the last ten years, as well as further advances in many fields of knowledge. Also, the BE20 will mark the close of "an epoch at the end of our century historically so rich in events" (jacket blurb).

The 20th edition is patterned after the 19th edition, with 24 volumes, ca. 260,000 entries under some 240 thematic classifications and over 35,000 illustrations on some 77,000 pages. The publisher states that 20% of the articles are new or have been revised, giving cause to the following samples and observations with regard to currency:

Comparing the range A–AK of both editions, the BE19 supplement (reflecting the most current state of the edition) contains 38 new main entries (Stichwörter). BE20, volume 1, lacks one of them. While some of these entries were relevant chiefly to the 1986–1994 period, the lack of other entries is not so understandable. Of the remaining 27 articles common to both, three have been abridged in BE20 while six are more detailed. The others have somewhat the same scope but are in part paraphrased. While the Brockhaus Encyclopedia, as a major reference work, strives for currency and for long-term "lexicon-worthiness" in its headings, there are lags in currency not only in some of the new subjects but also in some traditional disciplines.

The choice of ten key concepts (Schlüsselbegriffe) in BE19 (both in volume 1 and in the supplements) has been maintained in now eight detailed representations. Instead of Abfallbeseitigung (waste removal) we now find a detailed elucidation of Abfallwirtschaft (waste management industry). Although Abrüstung (disarmament) is listed as a headword, it is not typographically marked as such in the text. Alkoholismus is no longer handled as a key concept but is treated in only half its earlier scope—an incomprehensible decision considering that the topic is still a heated one. Alternativkultur is no longer a headword. Articles on the subject of debt and the environment are notable in BE20 in their scope. For example, the new key word Altschulden (old debts) gets two columns; Altlasten (inherited debt) is treated in detail, with the listing of new compound words.

Only a few illustrations have been brought up to date in BE20. Illustrations of cities, buildings, and objects have generally stayed the same; in survey articles about a nation's art only a few newer works have been added as illustrations. Portraits have, on the other hand, at least in part been replaced by more current pictures; coats of arms are increasingly provided. Drawings have to a large extent remained the same. Dates in tables have been brought up to the most recent status, and some new tables have been included. The maps at the beginning of articles about countries have not been enlarged, but they have been made more attractive.

Literature references have generally been updated, in some cases up to 1995, but for some topics scarcely treated before a number of obsolete references have not been updated. Under Abkürzungen (abbreviations), the second edition of the Duden, Wörterbuch der Abkürzungen is cited, although a 3rd edition was published in 1987. The most recent revision of Ägyptologie dates from 1986, for the Allgäu 1984, and so on.

Despite this (abbreviated!) list of shortcomings, the 20th edition of the Brockhaus Encyclopedia, with its wealth of headings, again offers a representative cross-section of today's knowledge. The publisher has done his best to produce a standard, basic encyclopedia, though the product is not without gaps. The 20th edition is also in complete conformity with the new orthography, making Brockhaus, Die Enzyklopädie the "Reference Work for [the Next] Generations" (press release).

The Brockhaus company headquarters returned to Leipzig in 1991 and the BE20's editorial staff hail from both Leipzig and Mannheim. 2250 new authors have been recruited, especially from eastern Germany. Thus, the 20th edition of the Brockhaus mirrors the reunification process, allowing the publisher to speak with good reason of an "all-German encyclopedia." Modern technology reduces to two years the time needed to complete the basic 24-volume 20th edition—compared with eight years for the 19th. Thus, supplements to the BE20 should begin to appear in 1999.

Since 1984 two large German encyclopedias—the Brockhaus-Enzyklopädie and Meyers enzyklopädisches Lexikon—competed with each other inside one publishing house. No longer, for the publisher indicates that in the future the Brockhaus imprint will be placed on large reference works, while the name Meyer will be reserved for "innovative" but smaller projects (including those for children)—a late victory, so to speak, of the one rival over the other. [sh/ga]


Microsoft Encarta 97 Enzyklopädie: ein umfassendes Multimedia-Nachschlagewerk. Für Microsoft Windows 95 [Microsoft Encarta 97 Encyclopedia: A Comprehensive Multimedia Reference Work for Microsoft Windows 95]. [Redmond, Wash.]: Microsoft Corp., 1996. 1 CD-ROM. Approx. DM 199.00 (retail). (Microsoft GmbH, Edisonstr. 1, 85716 Unterschleißheim)


Bertelsmann Discovery '97: das große Universallexikon auf CD-ROM [Bertelsmann Discovery '97: The General Encyclopedia on CD-ROM]

[Updated edition]. München: Bertelsmann Electronic Publishing, 1996. 1 CD-ROM in container. (Bee book). ISBN 3-577-11142-9: DM 198.00 (recommended price)

Both Encarta and Discovery are reviewed and compared here because, unlike other products (as with the much different Britannica on CD-ROM), they represent true multimedia encyclopedias with both moving images and sound. As reference works created primarily for home users, both have much in common, which further facilitates comparison. In addition to possessing similarities in the user interface, for example, the two CD-ROM products can trace their roots to a printed encyclopedia: Encarta to the 29-volume Funk & Wagnall's encyclopedia, and Discovery to the 20-volume Bertelsmann Universallexikon. While the Bertelsmann product has for the most part followed the structure of a dictionary-like lexicon with a large number of short entries (some 100,000), the Microsoft product has tended to stay true to the encyclopedia-like nature of the original printed version, with longer, more extensive entries (some 29,000). To make finding needed information easier, Encarta takes advantage of the electronic environment by providing extensive hyperlinks between articles (a feature in which the Encarta is clearly superior to its Bertelsmann's counterpart). Both approaches have advantages and disadvantages, but Encarta mitigates the smaller number of entries through its full-text searching capability. Finally, both products can be automatically updated monthly without charge via an Internet service.

Both products have had previous versions on the market, and these latest versions take advantage of the experienced gained, in addition to noticeably expanding the number of entries. In particular, Encarta 97 has gone well beyond the original German translation of its Funk & Wagnall's roots. Microsoft has significantly enlarged Encarta with countless articles specifically written for its German audience. Indeed, a cursory investigation reveals that Encarta appears to cover topics of German interest better than Bertelsmann's CD-ROM. In general, Encarta is more comprehensive and informative in providing needed information, an example being the entries treating countries and geography. Where Encarta still appears to be weak is with the articles on individual personages, in which dates are often lacking. Neither product is strong in offering references to additional reading: with Discovery they are lacking altogether.

Encarta contains significantly more visual material than Discovery, though the latter is stronger with tables and slide presentations. Discovery also seems to have had better success in both the selection of more relevant or interesting images, and also in integrating the images into the product, with more orienting text included with the images than Encarta. Its user interface with multimedia, however, is clearly better organized and more customizable than the rather Spartan features available in Discovery.

Encarta's multi-faceted user interface permits access to information, articles, and multimedia via five distinct filters, or means of searching: full-text Boolean searching, by subject area, by type of media, chronological searching, and, finally, by geographic type. As with other types of Microsoft products, a search assistant can also be employed in stepping through a search. Microsoft has given Encarta an extensive learning apparatus for young students: one can take numerous "theme" excursions on various aspects of culture, art, history, plants, or animals through the encyclopedia, moving progressively from article to article, and there are a number of quizzes that students can take. In comparison Discovery presents the user with a much leaner interface. While Discovery includes standard full-text searching with various operators, it only adds the ability to restrict searches by larger areas of knowledge (geography, history, society, culture, nature, and technology). Encarta permits the full range of searching the multimedia part of the encyclopedia (including the filters noted above); Discovery's multimedia section can only be accessed via keyword searching. The text portion of the user interface is, as with the above-mentioned multimedia portion, much more successfully realized in Encarta, with numerous means of changing the screen and text font sizes to suit one's wishes. In addition, Discovery suffers from the disadvantages of a rather poorly designed interface, as well as having specially noted text (to indicate media links and the like) highlighted with a light gray color, which makes it difficult to use when one is performing various tasks like copying and pasting.

To conclude, it should be apparent by now that Encarta is superior to Discovery in most of the areas considered important in assessing encyclopedia-like products. Encarta makes a better impression both in terms of content and in its presentation.


LexiROM. Version 2.0. Mannheim: Bibliographisches Institut & F. A. Brockhaus, 1996. 1 CD-ROM in container. Contains: Meyers Lexikon in 3 vols.; Duden, Die deutsche Rechtschreibung, 21st ed.; Duden, Das Fremdwörterbuch; Duden, Die sinn- und sachverwandten Wörter; Weltatlas; Langenscheidts Taschenwörterbuch Englisch. ISBN 3-411-06932-5: DM 349.00 (recommended price)


InfoROM '97/98: alles, was Sie zum schnellen Nachschlagen benötigen auf einer CD-ROM; für Schule, Studium und Beruf [InfoROM '97/98: Everything You Need for Quick Reference on One CD-ROM; For School, College, and Office]. München : Bertelsmann Electronic Publishing, 1997. 1 CD-ROM in container. (Bee book). Contains: Bertelsmann Universallexikon; Bertelsmann, Die neue deutsche Rechtschreibung; Wahrig, Fremdwörterlexikon; Bertelsmann Taschenwörterbuch Englisch; Bertelsmann Taschenwörterbuch Französisch; Rechtschreibprüfung (alte und neue Rechtschreibung); Weltatlas. - ISBN 3-577-11098-8: DM 98.00 (recommended price)

As with its encyclopedia CD-ROM Discovery, Bertelsmann appears to show little hesitation in openly imitating its competitor's products, and with InfoROM 97/98 the similarities to LexiROM are very obvious indeed (even the name of the product is a blatant mimicking of the older LexiROM). The primary market for these two collections of general reference works is the home, and they are intended as reference resources (utilities) with word processing and other programs. Both products allow one to work seamlessly with other programs, where, for example, dictionary entries and the like can be "pasted" into one's text in a word processor. This is their primary purpose, and as such they are not intended for library use.

As one can see in the above contents listing, the two products contain a similar collection of encyclopedia, atlas, dictionaries, and translating dictionaries, all of which appear in well-known print-based forms. Only the thesaurus, or synonym dictionary, which is found in LexiROM, has no counterpart with InfoROM. LexiROM's encyclopedia, Meyers Lexikon, is larger and more substantial than the Universallexikon of InfoROM, though both are true multimedia products, with illustrations, sound, and videos. In addition to a spelling and grammar dictionary, both contain a dictionary of foreign words in German, in addition to a concise version of an English-German dictionary. The InfoROM product adds a French-German dictionary that is not present in LexiROM. While InfoROM provides audio pronunciations for all dictionary entries, InfoROM only includes pronunciation for 10,000 words. Finally, both include concise atlases that provide more a geographic overview rather than detailed representations of countries. Both products provide online help support, but LexiROM's text and examples are qualitatively superior to those of its competitor.

The user interface for both products provides for numerous ways to search the included material, as well as for displaying it. Books can be searched individually, or all of them together. The LexiROM product also allows the user to search multimedia elements as a group. One can either search by index entries or the entire CD-ROM as full-text. InfoROM includes the useful feature of including "see also" references while searching. Both products allow for more complex Boolean searching and truncation, though LexiROM provides for more control in what and how one searches. A nice addition to LexiROM is phrase and "fuzzy" search capabilities, where the latter is tolerant of minor errors in spelling.

Both CD-ROM products contrast with one another strongly in the presentation of material. The obvious winner here is LexiROM, which has a much richer and more clearly displayed structure of information on the screen. The developers of LexiROM appear to have spent more time integrating the entries and the multimedia segments from the various books into an electronic environment. The display of material in this product is in general more integrated internally in a way useful to the user. A good example of this is the display of the new spelling and grammar rules in the Rechtschreib-Duden, where the new spelling is shown in one window and the old spelling automatically displayed in another window to prevent possible confusion.

Because of their deficiencies neither of the products reviewed here can be strongly recommended, even for home use. LexiROM is slightly better than the Bertelsmann InfoROM, but its price is so unreasonably high that the resulting price-performance ratio makes it difficult to justify a purchase.

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Last update: July 31, 2000 [RD]
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