At a time when the internet can be thought of as providing all
the material one might need there is still a commitment to producing
encyclopedias. Surely these go out of date too fast, surely
they can't provide all the resources this 'net generation' might
need? Actually the answer can be yes in both cases but it does
depend on what you are doing and how you go about it.One of
the key arguments for the internet is that it allows readers
to find out anything instantly. The problem is, you need to
know what you are looking for in the first place. The web is
not, as has been argued, serendipitous. Search engines are precise
algorithms delivering what they find. It doesn't tell you how
good the information is nor if it is complete nor what bits
join on to it.
this argument we have this encyclopedia focussing on that most
extreme of environments, the coast, or more precisely, tidepools
and rocky shores. The text is part of a larger series called
Encyclopedias of the Natural World (although this would
appear to the the first one published). The aim is to cover
all of the key topics in an A-Z fashion - Abalones to Zonation.
Readers can browse either in the standard dictionary way or
by looking at topics arranged by subject area. This is an interesting
and useful device. If you want to see what is available then
it is possible to browse through the content. However, if there's
a specific topic area e.g. ecology and behaviour (one of 16
topics in this book) then it's possible to see all the entries
in this category and then go to those. Each entry is written
in an accessible style with the general reader as intended audience.
An entry is usually 3-4 pages long with 186 separate entries
in total. Each article has a reading list and a small feature
mentioning related articles - particularly useful to the beginner.
Coverage is global rather than local with contributors largely
from North America but also from all other areas except Middle
East. This gives the text an international feel.
than discuss each of the 186 articles (which would become rapidly
tedious given the uniformity of production!) the issue whether
one might find use for a book like this. As one teaching coastal
ecology and management topics the answer must be yes. The book
covers are very wide range of topics - it would be unusual if
the beginner could not find an answer here. The writing style
and production is such that it encourages people to read on.
The fact that the book is structured means that students will
be focussed on the topic and not be distracted by extraneous
material which is so often the case with the internet. One could
easily imagine groups working through this for their ecology
projects. Overall, an excellent publication - a 'must buy' for
any coastal field centre and definitely recommended as a library
text where coastal issues are taught.