Incorporates: Electronic Resources Review
Online from: 1997
Subject Area: Library and Information Studies
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Article citation: Tony Chalcraft, (2008) "Editorial", Reference Reviews, Vol. 22 Iss: 8, pp. -
A major objective of Reference Reviews over the last few volumes has been to improve the coverage of reference output from lesser-known publishers. We have to admit that success in this endeavour has often been limited; such is the dominance of the big name reference publishers that their output, especially with regard to printed items, still frequently dominates the columns. However, with this, the final number of the 22nd volume, we can record some progress in that as many as a quarter of reviews in this issue could be considered to be from a non-mainstream publisher. Moreover, some of these reviews are for significant publications that represent important and often pioneering contributions in their field. That many of the publishers are based outside the USA or the UK and that some of the works were originally published in a language other than English is also worth noting. English may increasingly be the global language, but a number of important new reference sources continue to appear in other languages, albeit if many of the more successful are eventually issued in translated or adapted English versions.
A title in this category is Fashion Dictionary (RR 2008/374) first published in Italian as Dizionario della Moda and released in English in 2006 (one of the penalties of covering non-mainstream publications is that reviews can take longer to arrange) by Baldini Castoldi Dalai Editore (distributed in the UK by the more familiar Antique Collectors’ Club). Design Dictionary (RR 2008/371) newly published by the Swiss based imprint Birkhäuser might appear to be a similar work for the design world. However, the original language of publication is English and, as the subtitle Perspectives on Design Terminology hints, this is not a comprehensive dictionary of the subject but, to quote the review, “more a collection of views (of 110 contributors) about design concepts”. Also from a publisher based in a non-English speaking country is the far more ambitious and practical Handbook of the Birds of the World. This series of volumes, from Catalan publishing house Lynx Edicions, began to appear in 1992 and with Picathartes to Tits and Chickadees reviewed here (RR 2008/360) reaches its twelfth volume. Such is the continuing progress of the project that the publishers have announced the thirteenth volume, Penduline Tits to Shrikes for October 2008. In addition, the publisher’s web site contains information on the equally ambitious Handbook of Mammals of the World (www.hbw.com/lynx/en/handbook-mammals-world/index.html) The first volume of this projected eight volume set, to cover carnivores, is anticipated for release spring 2009. Like the Handbook of the Birds of the World, this will be an essential acquisition for serious life sciences/zoology collections, and a valuable and attractive addition for larger general collections.
Other publications from less mainstream reference publishers covered here include two from imprints specialising in theological and related topics (Dictionary of Major Biblical Interpreters (RR 2008/335) from Inter-Varsity Press and The Encyclopedic Sourcebook of Satanism (RR 2008/336)) from Prometheus Press) and the latest edition of the established Treaties and Alliances of the World (from London small scale politics and related imprint John Harper). Also worthy of mention, partly because it is from one of the smaller reference publishers Chambers and also for its originality, is Foyle’s Philavery: A Treasury of Unusual Words (RR 2008/350). More for entertainment than workaday reference, this book is penned by Christopher Foyle, a name well known in UK bookselling circles through directorship of the eponymous London bookshop.
Turning to web sites, somewhat conversely, we have perhaps less of a crop of the unusual than in many recent issues of Reference Reviews. Instead we feature two resources from Facts on File, Curriculum Resource Center (RR 2008/340) and Ancient and Medieval History Online (RR 2008/376). Also covered is Bentham Open Access Journals (RR 2008/356) recently launched by Bentham Science Publishers. To eventually include up to 200 science, technology and medicine titles (STM), this is one of the first large scale open access journal publishing initiatives by a commercial publisher, revenue being generated from fees levied on authors or their sponsoring institutions. Another STM focussed site we review is Scitopia (RR 2008/368), the relatively well-known free federated search engine covering the content of learned society publications (including the UK Royal Society), government documents and patent databases. Finally, while considering electronic resources, we should note the ABC-Clio, the reference publisher that pioneered the e-book, has released the third edition of American Foreign Relations since 1600: A Guide to the Literature (RR 2008/338), issued under the auspices of The Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, in electronic book format only. As our reviewer notes, offering an essentially bibliographical publication in e-book format without the search capabilities of a database, despite the gradual blurring of the boundaries between the two formats, does not necessarily provide for the most effective exploitation of this important resource.
Finally, we should balance our skim of the contents of this volume by highlighting a few of the reviews of titles from more mainstream reference publishers. Library professionals and educators may ponder the value of Saur producing a new edition of the IFLA World Guide to Library, Archive and Information Science Education (RR 2008/333) in print at a time when most of the establishments listed will have a full web presence. Two large-scale sets covered are Thomson Gale’s four volume Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender (RR 2008/342), not to be confused with Kluwer’s Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender (RR 2004/425), and The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Love, Courtship & Sexuality through History (RR 2008/343) published in six volumes. Also from Saur, and again a publication where an electronic version would appear to have advantages over print, is the latest (eighth) edition of the Online Business Sourcebook (RR 2008/347). One of the more entertaining as well as informative titles we review is Gaither’s Dictionary of Scientific Quotations (RR 2008/359) partly derived from earlier compilations by Carl Gaither and Alma Cavazos-Gaither Medically Speaking and Mathematically Speaking. Another title continuing and complimenting an earlier effort is Encyclopedia of Furnishing Textiles, Floorcoverings and Home Furnishing Practices, 1200-1950 (RR 2008/373) by Clive Edwards which follows his 2000 publication Encyclopedia of Furniture Materials, Trades and Techniques. Finally, mention must be made of the latest (sixth) edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (RR 2008/353). This follows only five years after the fifth edition and presumably indicates that Oxford University Press intend to maintain print updating alongside the online version of the full Oxford English Dictionary.
Editor, Reference Reviews, and University Librarian, York St John University, York, UK