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The Columbia Encyclopedia 6th Edition

4 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0787650155
ISBN-10: 0787650153
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The single-volume Columbia Encyclopedia was first published in 1935 as a "suitable companion to a good dictionary and atlas" for the general reader, and it still fits that description more than 75 years later. There are nearly 51,000 entries in this new edition, with 1,300 new entries and revisions made to 40 percent of the remainder. The preface states that efforts have been made to expand computer, medical, and science coverage, and this appears to be the case. Editor Lagasse credits an able editorial board and contributors, as well as the dozens of consultants and academic advisors responsible for the content and accuracy of the fifth edition, on which this work is based.Since the last edition was published, in 1993, the Web has exploded into daily culture. This is reflected throughout the book, in articles as diverse as Book publishing, Broker, Newspaper, Postal service, Speculation, Store, and Telecommuting. (Indeed, the full text of the new Columbia Encyclopedia is available free on the Internet [http://www.bartleby.com/65/].) Global warming and Artificial intelligence have been expanded. Mine has been updated with statistics, recent treaties, and mine-removal operations; and Lyme disease mentions the human vaccine approved in 1999. Other new entries: Antidepressant; Blair, Tony; Dietary mineral; Dove, Rita; DVD; Echinacea; Reconnaissance satellite; and Triathlon. Political events from 1999 have been added to many articles: Australian Aborigines reflects the government apology for mistreatment, Chechnya discusses the establishment of Islamic law, and polls showing declining support for secession are noted in Quebec. The table for Nobel Prize winners is current through 1999.Any major encyclopedia will always have a few errors, and this one is no exception. The 1997 change in family classification for skunks to Mephitidae is not mentioned (they're still described as part of the Mustelid, or weasel, family). The Longfellow Mountains shown marching across the Maine state map are a subrange of the Appalachian Mountains; the name is of historical interest, but it's not part of the common knowledge of hikers and residents, nor is it used on current maps from most standard publishers.Entries range in length from a sentence or two to several pages, which means a great number of words given the extremely small font size utilized. Two welcome improvements have been made to the layout of longer articles: division into indented paragraphs for the first time, and more subsection headings. Cross-references (80,000 of them) are found throughout the text of articles (e.g., to Drug resistance from Antibiotic), and see references (e.g., I-Ching SEE Book of Changes) are adequate. In the Web edition, these are hypertext links, which is very convenient. Many articles include a short bibliography of books, often listed only by author and year in the interest of saving space. Another note on the font: the editors have switched from a sans-serif to a more readable serif font for the article text. There is no handy thumb index in the new edition.Maps are included for countries and U.S. states and vary widely in the amount of detail provided. For example, some countries, such as Italy, get a full-page map with major cities and geographic features identified, while others, such as Botswana, are represented by a tiny darkened area on a small map of the continent, on which the capital city is not even indicated. Get out that world atlas! Tables and charts (e.g., for elementary particles, U.S. presidents, United Nations members, the periodic table, the manual alphabet, constellations) are used where appropriate. Line drawings aid understanding of articles such as Cone, Gear, Jet propulsion, Kepler's second law, Methionine, Orders of architecture, and Panpipes. Some choices seem odd: why illustrate Mint but not Potato? The Internet edition includes tables but not the maps and drawings found in the print volume.Even though the Internet version has the dual advantages of keyword searching and font enlargement, most libraries will still want to have the latest Columbia Encyclopedia in the reference or reading room. Put it on a well-placed, sturdy stand, and it's likely to get more action than the Web site will ever attract. REVWR
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Series: Columbia Encyclopedia
  • Hardcover: 3200 pages
  • Publisher: Gale Group; 6 edition (June 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0787650153
  • ISBN-13: 978-0787650155
  • Product Dimensions: 14.9 x 9.8 x 3.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #361,532 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

I have bought a Columbia encyclopedia every 5 years or so for over 20 years, with each one having been superior to its predecessor. I grew up with them and their awesome wealth of knowledge. But this encyclopedia is a notch above my highest expectation. In this age of computer encyclopedias, it may seem futile to buy a printed version. But from experience, I know that this encyclopedia often has information that I can't find on Encarta or Compton's. And that is priceless. It is well worth it to have this compendium of information.
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This is a wonderful reference book. The information is superbly presented. Where the entry might be unfamiliar it provides a pronunciation key (exceptionally convenient for foreign or archaic words). The entries themselves are well balanced for readability, content, and completeness. And most articles include a bibliography if you wish to research further.
It is also a reference in which you can get delightfully lost. My searches take me in many directions. It's first class cross-referencing makes an in-depth investigation a snap, but sometimes it is better to ramble. And this is the beauty of the book, unlike structured links with Web or CD encyclopedias, in the Columbia Encyclopedia the links are only encumbered by your imagination and curiosity.
If you are not American, (I'm Canadian) don't worry about obsessive jingoism that often pervades American efforts. The Columbia presentation is evenhanded and globally egalitarian in scope and breadth.
If you don't already own this excellent volume it should be on your bookshelf. If you are a teacher it should be in both the school library and your classroom (grades 6-12), and if you are a parent it should be in your home. The Columbia Encyclopedia is truly a rare and valuable information jewel.
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This my second version Columbia Encyclopedia and the new edition deserves much the same praise as the old one did.

The amazing thing about this encyclopedia is I often prefer it to my Britannica CD (or the online service). It's faster, more to the point, and has a surprising number of very clear and helpful illustrations and charts (all the Supreme Court Justices and their dates, p. 2754; a schematic for an iron blast furnace, p. 323). It's also a great gazetteer (Inuvik - Northwest Territories Candada, pop. 8,491, with a whole darn paragraph on the place!). The only downside is that as impressive as this thing is, it has to be brief. Only 2 sentences on King Khufu of Egypt, for example, seems a bit unfair, but such is life. (On the up side, they give 16 lines to my favorite writer H.H.Munro, aka Saki.)

It is also pretty topical--it has room to give a third of a page to the Monica Lewinksy scandal--but not always as much as I'd like. Country entries often get their data only from 1995 figures, which in a 2000 enyclopedia seems a bit late. Still, I quibble. This is a great book.
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I think both books are outstanding, and more complementary than rivals. In fact, I use both. Nevertheless, there are some differences.
Columbia's big dimensions and weight (8.9 pounds/4 kg) make almost necessary to read it on a desk. Britannica Concise (BCE) is 6.7 pounds/3 kg and smaller.
Both utilize an extremely small font size. Columbia contains 6.5 million words. BCE "only" 2.6.
Britannica C has over 2000 photographs, maps, tables, drawings, color illustrations; nations flags ... In Columbia, illustrations are sparse, limited to about 500 black-and-white line drawings.
Columbia's 6th edition stopped in 1999. BCE is of April 2003 and is edited every year in spring, but I don't know if they are going to update it or not.
Britannica Concise has articles like Super Bowl, Viagra, Coca-Cola, Big Stick Policy, Mother's Day and Father's Day ... that don't exist in Columbia.
Quantity does not always mean Quality. B Concise seems to be more shrewd, witty and, by the way, less subjective. For instance, Columbia's article Homosexuality concludes in this way: "But AIDS (.....) also sparked moralistic reactions; some felt, for example, that it represented a form of judgment on homosexuality". BCE's same article is shorter, but neutral, and does not say such a thing.
As I said before, both books are outstanding and complementary.
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I bought the Columbia encyclopedia a little over a year ago and now I feel qualified enough to review it.
I'm never amazed at the amount of information that is presented in this book. It has never failed me or my seventh-grade daughter with any of her school related questions. Whether her questions have to do with the population density of Calcutta (population and area in sq. miles), cell reproduction or plate tectonics, I have yet to find something that she needed and it was not there.
The information is presented in a very succinct manner. There is never too much or too little information for a specific entry - always just enough. The "also see" and bibliography references at the end of many entries are very useful. The binding is great. I was afraid that this huge book after constant use would crack at the hinges, but that is not true. This is one of the bulkiest books I've got and, yet, surprisingly, is also one of the strongest. After more than a year's frequent use, the hinges feel as strong as when I bought it and so do the ledge and spine.
This is not a multimedia information center. There are no pictures, only maps and drawings. When you first open it, you are faced with columns and columns of small font text, though it's nicely laid out.
I do not find any social or political bias in the book, but I may not be sensitive to it. One will not find positive or negative references being made on specific issues, although one may find something to the extend of "some academics feel that..." or "in this century XYZ has fallen out of favor with..." The book does not take sides, its stance is neutral and objective with no flavor. It does not offend and its errors (if any) are ones of omission not commission.
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