Online Reference Essay, Research Paper
Online referenceBook publication is like farming: a batch happens in the spring, summer is pastoral, fall is feverish and everyone gets drunk in winter. Merely now, as Observer readers will cognize, the Anglo-American book trade is traveling through one of its seasonal spasms.Charles Frazier, bestselling writer of Cold Mountain, has sold his new ( unwritten ) book to Random House for $ 5 million and all over Manhattan people who should cognize better are shouting & # 8216 ; Foul! & # 8217 ; As Mark Twain unforgettably put it, when people complain that & # 8216 ; it & # 8217 ; s non the money, it & # 8217 ; s the rule of the thing & # 8217 ; , you merely cognize it & # 8217 ; s the money.Next to the cosmopolitan position that & # 8216 ; everyone has a book in them & # 8217 ; , there & # 8217 ; s a widespread belief that books and money, like Damon and Pythias, go manus in manus. Newspaper headlines describing multi-million-dollar trades give the populace the mostly erroneous feeling that you have merely to function up what the publishing houses are looking for to stumble upon wealths beyond the dreams of avarice.Big progresss surely attract estates of newspaper coverage, but in the strategy of things they are little murphies. The existent money is found non among the volumes piled high on the tabular array at the forepart of the bookstore but on the shelves of mention books tucked off at the back following to the fire exit.Works of mention remain the biggest and most profitable concern in the universe of books. English lexicons, sold from Oxford to Osaka, generate around & # 163 ; 50 million in one-year turnover. In this moneymaking market, four publishing houses & # 8211 ; Oxford, Collins, Longman and, my front-runner, Chambers & # 8211 ; slog it out for command, with newcomer Bloomsbury, publishing house of the Encarta lexicon, snarling towels at the side of the ring.About two old ages ago, Oxford pulled off a arresting commercial putsch by seting its huge lexicographical database online at www.oed.com.For those who love to fossick through the pages of a great lexicon, the OED Online is a singular experience. At the chink of a mouse, the word-surfer can cite up the etymology of any point of involvement from autochthonous to zeugma. Subscribers can recover the 60 million words this great dictionary employs to depict the 750,000 footings used in English during the past 1,000 old ages. It offers a genuinely dumbfounding image of the English linguistic communication as an extraordinary life phenomenon.OUP is now establishing a
souped-up version, designed to appeal to the colossal reference market, and drawing on a remarkable database – the information stored in its numerous reference books covering the humanities, social sciences, and medicine, from astronomy to zoology.Oxford Reference Online won’t fly you to the Moon, help you get a date with Kylie Minogue, or cure tropical illness, but it will tell you all you want to know about the ‘ZZ Ceti Star’ or the arcana of African folk mythology and, should you care to know it, the ins and outs of Vatican history. It has cost more than ?1 million to assemble, and the fact-hungry public can subscribe, initially, for ?175 per annum. But I have to confess the experience of browsing this new web-site has left me cold.The Online OED is one thing. It offers a high-speed and highly efficient solution to the quest for lexicographical wisdom to which the definitive and concise genius of its lexicographers is perfectly suited. An online encyclopedia is something else, quite vulnerable to the variable quality of the various Oxford companions on which it draws.Some of these, The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, for example, are first class. Others (The Companion to the English Language) are notoriously suspect. So the database is not the flawless engine that powers OED Online. And then, sure, it’s nice to be able to type in ‘American comedy’ and get chapter and verse on ‘Jerome Kern and Stephen Sondheim’, but, quite frankly, do we really need this?OUP obviously thinks so, because it is investing heavily in Oxford Reference Online. But whereas with the OED it was the market leader, this time it is not the undisputed leader in its field. In fact, I had no sooner tapped in my special password when along came a spokesman for Xreferplus, a MacMillan competitor, who, in the nicest possible way, rubbished the Oxford effort, boasted of Xreferplus’s ‘ambitious and innovative operations in the reference area’ and offered to let The Observer browse the online website. (This, by the way, costs a minumum of ?500 for ‘institutional’ subscribers, and is ‘not yet’ available to the general public.)All told, the experience has been like being trapped on the doorstep by two competing encyclopedia salesmen. I don’t want to seem like an ungrateful Luddite, but if I want to look something up I’d rather go to the library – and open a book.