Four online alternatives to Microsoft Encarta

Here's a list of four other places you can learn about Ghandi, the Revolutionary War, the Eiffel Tower, and other encyclopedic subjects

As you may have heard, Microsoft plans to pull the plug on the Encarta Web sites and software later this year. Bummer! I can't say I used the service all that much, but I'm saddened to see the demise of such a well-known reference resource.

Of course, there are alternatives--lots of them (which may help explain Microsoft's decision). Here's a list of four other places you can learn about Ghandi, the Revolutionary War, the Eiffel Tower, and other encyclopedic subjects:

Britannica You can browse loads of content here, but expect a lot of pop-ups entreating you to sign up for a Premium Membership (US$69.95 annually). Thankfully, there's a free 7-day trial.

Encyclopedia.com A search engine that culls from over 100 sources, including The Columbia Encyclopedia, The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English, and A Dictionary of Food Nutrition. Search results can be a little busy, but you can't argue with the price: It's all free.

Wikipedia A-doy. I have to admit, this is usually the first place I turn when seeking information, despite frequently being disappointed with the results.

World Book Online Unlike Britannica, WBO offers 3-day and 1-month subscriptions in addition to the annual option; prices are $3.95, $9.95, and $49.95, respectively. Alas, you get very little free material, so subscribing is all but mandatory.

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Rick Broida

PC World (US online)
Topics: encarta, wikipedia

Comments

Anonymous

1

Wikipedia, Encarta and Encyclopaedia Britannica

Wikipedia, with a 97% share of the online encyclopedia market, has forced Microsoft to shut down Encarta. How long will it be before Wikipedia claims the prize scalp of Encyclopaedia Britannica?

Encyclopaedia Britannica did not think that an open source product like Wikipedia would significantly challenge the credibility of its brand. They were dead wrong and Encyclopaedia Britannica's staff seriously misread the global market. They are now very concerned about the widespread use of a free Wikipedia vs their paid subscription model. From a corporate and financial perspective, Encyclopaedia Britannica is in significant trouble.

It will be interesting to see if Encyclopaedia Britannica survives, but recent indications do not look good. It is the combination of a) the success of Wikipedia and b) improved search engines that has put financial pressure on Encyclopedia Britannica over recent years. Many libraries, schools & individuals are questioning the need to pay for sets of expensive books, or to subscribe to Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, when the content is free on the internet, and much more comprehensive.

Over the next year or so we will see the continued demise of Britannica as it becomes ever less relevant in a Wikipedia-dominated landscape.

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