Biographical and Bibliographical Information on CD-ROM

Dr. Klaus G. Saur
K.G.Saur Verlag

For hundreds of years bibliographical and biographical reference works have been published and have represented an indispensable source of help for the entire library- and information sector, but especially for the entire area of the sciences.

Due to continual changes and developments this production sector is specially fitted for CD-ROM. It is no coincidence that the first product, which had worldwide success on CD-ROM, was the American "Books in Print". It became the model example for all other "Books in Print Directories", which have now proven themselves on CD-ROM to a large degree. The next step in the development was to publish retrospective bibliographies on CD-ROM and to check on the possibility, respectively, of whether or not this could be published in this form. Parallel to this telephone books, biographical Who's Who directories and other biographical lexicons have been published on CD-ROM.

1. The area of "Books in Print" products.

In 1985 the first American "Books in Print" was presented by the publisher Bowker in New York. Pertaining to it's contents it corresponded to the printed edition, which had previously been published annually. The printed edition consisted of 10 author-volumes, 8 subject volumes as well as spring supplements. That means the contents of 20 volumes previously published, with a weight of 50 kilograms, were now presented on a small silver disc. An additional result of this was the fundamentally larger possibility of researching reference works. While it was previously only possible to search by author, title or subject-term, it then also became possible to search by ISBN number, by publisher's name, place of publication, by subtitle, price category and many other possibilities.

Directly following the American "Books in Print" in short order were the German "Verzeichnis Lieferbarer Bucher", "Whitaker's Books in Print", the French "Livres Disponibles", the Italian "Catalogo dei Libri in Commercio" as well as the Spanish "Libros en Venta", also in CD-ROM form.

This technology reached a further high-point in 1994 with the first edition of "Global Books in Print". On this CD-ROM all titles are compiled which are published in the English language worldwide. That means not only those in America or in England, but rather also all English-language titles which are published in any country and are available today.

The price of DM 5,100 is lower than the subsumption of the reference works, which would otherwise have to be purchased. The standardization of the subject cross referencing is an additional large advantage. The monthly publication cycle ensures a level of up-to-dateness and represents the best information system of English-language publications in existence worldwide.

2. Retrospective Bibliographies

Because more and more data-stocks of the large libraries are being compiled electronically, new possibilities are always arising of also bringing retrospective bibliographies on CD-ROM. A prime example for this is the "Katalog der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek 1501 bis 1840" [Catalogue of the Bavarian State Library 1501 to 1840]. The Bavarian State Library, which is the largest research library in existence on the European continent and presides over the most precious old collections, had it's collections from 1501 to 1840 completely compiled electronically. It was originally foreseen to publish a print edition for this. This edition would have consisted of 92 volumes and would not have been able to be financed economically, because the retail price necessary for this would have had to have been at least DM 28,000; a price which only the fewest of libraries could be able to afford today.

However, because the material is already compiled electronically and is available, it suggested itself to be published on CD-ROM which most importantly offers fundamentally more opportunities for research. This CD-ROM shall be put on the market in a few weeks and sold at a retail price of DM 3,200.

The Research Libraries Group in California forms a network of the most important American scientific libraries. In the meanwhile most of these libraries have completely sent all of their collections of data to the central office, so that every bibliographical entry is compiled there. During a checking over of the data it was found that, for example, a total completeness has been achieved for the Spanish-language area. That means there is no scientific Spanish-language title published between 1450 and 1995 which is not contained in this data.

This was the prerequisite to publishing the "Spanish Bibliography 15th Century to 1995" on CD-ROM. 1 million titles are listed here with excessively and excellently detailed bibliographical descriptions and this bibliography has been put on the market for the absolutely unbelievable price of DM 3,500. It shall be published anew every two years because all new publications shall be taken into consideration then and, when the case may be, also to make corrections or take new acquisitions into account.

The Deutsche Bibliothek in Frankfurt is now systematically compiling it's collections going backwards in time. As a first in the series a CD-ROM is now being published for the German-speaking areas during the time-period 1945 to 1985. Here as well a CD-ROM shall be offered for DM 2,800 which contains over 1 million titles and provides excellent complete information about German-language literature of this period. It is planned to supplement this by going backwards in time and, first of all, to reach back at least to 1912. Similar plans are also in existence for other countries, which shall certainly be realized in the coming years.

3. Telephone Books.

Each of us is aware that a telephone book is in principle always out-dated; that it is difficult to read and that it is essentially useless. This is exactly where the electronic form offers itself perfectly. In Germany there is now a complete telephone book on CD-ROM which only costs DM 48 and has, in the meanwhile, turned into an absolute best-seller. That means it is much cheaper to buy this CD-ROM than to constantly call information or use different telephone books which are never complete. This is an example for countless reference works, industrial address-books, etc., which shall all disappear within the course of the next few years in the print form and shall only be available in CD-ROM or in online form as well.

4. Who's Who Information.

The area of "Who's Who" reference works is most strongly developed in the Anglo-American world. However, also in German-speaking countries and in France, etc. there are biographical encyclopedias being published constantly as per the newest data. Here as well it is meanwhile the case that the majority of publishers have all this data saved electronically and that the products shall either only be published in CD-ROM or in paper and CD-ROM form, sometimes with combined prices.

5. Historical Biographical Encyclopedias

This is where the development shall take the longest because the historical biographical encyclopedias are only in the most seldom cases available in electronic form. However, in order to make available encyclopedias which were published between 1600 and 1900 or 1600 and 1970 and having almost all been published in the traditional set-form and not being able to be called up electronically, it would require huge outlays which are not at all financable.

The K.G. Saur Publishing Co. has created a Worldwide Biographical Information System in the past 20 years in which it has compiled all biographical lexica published between 1600 and today, completely photographed them and placed them in their corresponding biographical archive. Thus, aside from the 24 other archives, there has also been published the "Czech and Slovakian Biographical Archive", which has been completed recently. Due to the costs these archives exist in microfiche.

The index of names, containing the corresponding birth- and death dates, birth- and death places, occupational entries as well as cross-references of in which lexica the articles are contained and on which microfiches they have been filmed, is published in book form. It shall, however, be included in the "World Biographical Index", which is cumulated with the other biographical indices in order to offer a complete source of information.

That means, for example, that one can find out from the "World Biographical Index on CD-ROM" how many articles have been published on Franz Kafka in the "Czech and Slovakian Biographical Archive" or in the "German Biographical Archive". On the CD-ROM version it is also possible to call up everything by country, by subject area, by century, by sex etc.
The combination of the classical microfiche form, still necessary due to reasons of cost, and the access made possible through CD-ROM, which can also be called up over the internet and made completely available online seems to represent the ideal solution.

Zpatky do INFOMEDIA 96.