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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship
Spring 2005

Book Reviews

Encyclopedia of Information Science and Technology

Beverly Ryan
Computer Science/Library Science Specialist
University of California, Santa Barbara

Encyclopedia of Information Science and Technology / Mehdi Khosrow-Pour, editor. Hershey, PA.: Idea Group Reference, 2005. 3000+ pp. $1125.00. ISBN 1-59140-553-X

The Encyclopedia of Information Science and Technology is a five-volume encyclopedia with over 550 articles. Unlike a traditional encyclopedia with articles arranged by subject, this is arranged alphabetically by title, including initial articles "a", "the" and "an". The result is that the user must sit down with all five volumes to find articles of interest. The index, which is included in each volume, has serious deficiencies. For each topic consulted in the index, additional articles were found in the table of contents that happened to have the pertinent words first in the title. Some index entries were for words merely mentioned in the article, while the major concepts were missing from the index. Fortunately, most of these problems are resolved in the online version by what appears to be a keyword index.

The encyclopedia offers more than 4,500 technical and managerial terms with definitions. These terms are listed at the end of each article and appear to be defined by the author of the article. In the Index of Key Terms a term could have several entries, for each author who happened to define it.

The print version includes a list of authors (listed alphabetically by first name) and their institutional affiliation, and each article has the author(s) listed, but there is no author index. In the online version it is possible to do a search by author.

It is unfortunate that the encyclopedia is so poorly organized and difficult to use efficiently, as the articles are thoughtful, well written, and informative. The preface indicates that articles were submitted to a peer review process and the quality reflects this. Topics range from the very technical (software engineering, data mining, and database technologies, for example) to social and ethical concerns of information technology such as end user computing and the digital divide. One could learn a lot just by browsing the volumes.

Articles appear to follow a prescribed format: introduction, background, main thrust of the article, future trends, conclusion, references, and key terms. A search in the online version first brings up an abstract with key terms listed and hyperlinked. The full text of the article is in a PDF file.

According to the marketing brochure, the purchase price includes "Free online access for life of edition with purchase of print copy." There is no way to tell how long online access will last, which is too bad as it is by far a better version of the encyclopedia.

It is difficult to recommend the encyclopedia for purchase during these years of extremely tight budgets. Although the encyclopedia has interesting and useful information, I can't help but question how much use it would get. I do think it would be a good purchase for a library school, largely because of its broad range of topics relating to information science and technology.

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