TOURBUS: Tuesday, August 20, 1996
DRIVER: Bob Rankin
Online Encyclopedias

Is the library obsolete? Not yet, but the Internet offers some pretty powerful research tools nowadays. We'll visit five examples in today's Bus ride and see what they can offer to searching surfers. But before we start, here's another way to get smarter without leaving the comfort of your keyboard...

*--------------------------*  ONLINE COURSES  *----------------------*
 Do you want to keep your job AND take courses?  Univ. of Wisconsin-
  Stout provides facilitated & self-paced courses online.  For info
   visit "" or e-mail "".
Britannica Online

You can search the first "real" encyclopedia on the Internet with a free 7-day trial membership. Britannica Online is an award-winning service provided by the same people who print the Encyclopedia Britannica. It consists of a fully searchable and browsable collection of authoritative references, including Britannica's latest article database, Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary and links to related Web sites selected by Britannica editors.

The depth and professional quality of this site makes an extended visit worthwhile, but membership beyond that point is rather expensive. A subscription costs $14.95 per month or $150 per year. Maybe I'll shell out the bucks if the next edition can answer my "What is a Tourbus?" query. Tarbush?? Not even close! :-)

Global Encyclopedia

This is a project in which people from around the world are invited to provide entries for a free online encyclopedia. The content is not professional writing, but many of the entries are whimsical, making it a fun read. Sounds like a great way to use the combined brain power of the Internet community in a collaborative way.

The site was not responding as this issue of TOURBUS was being prepared, so give it a try later on if you can't get through. The saying "Information wants to be free" but you also get what you pay for. I think *quality* information will always command a price, both online and off.

The Electric Library

The Electric Library helps you conduct real research over the Internet, using a database of 150 full-text newspapers, 800 full-text magazines, two international newswires, 2000 classic books, as well as maps, photographs, works of literature and art.

Search results are ranked in relevancy order, displaying the document title, source, author, date of publication, size, and grade reading level. The materials can be printed, or saved into a word processing document with bibliographic information included.

You can even limit searches by publication, date, title, and author. I put EL to the test by searching on "Unabomber sympathy" to see if it could find that wacky "Unabomber may be a nice guy after all" story that USA Today printed a few months ago. (EL did find it and served up the full text.)

Searching The Electric Library is free, but you need to register for a free trial membership before you can view the text of a document in your search results. The free trial lasts two weeks, after which you're on the hook for $9.95 a month if you choose to subscribe.


This is a page listing dozens of special purpose online and printed encyclopedias. Check out Gazebo Garden (online encyclopedia of perennial gardening), the Book of Parrots, or Encyclopedia Mystica (an on-line encyclopedia on mythology, folklore & mysticism).

Encyclopaedia Arabica

Encyclopaedia Arabica covers peoples, cultures, and languages that are related to the Arab world and the Middle East in general. (So why is the site on a Norwegian server? Visit and find out.) This site offers a wealth of information, and is also a rather slick showcase of the creator's Web expertise. There's a "What's New?" popup that appears in a separate window when you arrive, and a very clever animated GIF that displays a set of photos inside a book. Webmasters, study this one!

That's all for today, but let me add a quick reminder that online search technology is not always the best solution. Sometimes asking a real live human librarian will get you there quicker. Hey, that's what they do for a living - use their services and thank them! And perhaps a visit to today's sponsor will net you some gift ideas...

*-------------------------- BUY IT ONLINE --------------------------*
         Your Guide to Locating Products & Services Online
  Online discussion area.  Ask your questions about buying online!
    Find Great Gift Ideas - for Wife, Business Associate, Dad...
*------------------(  )-----------------*
See you next time! -Bob

, viruses, hoaxes, urban legends, search engines, cookies, cool sites
TOURBUS Site Search