Arlene L.Eis (ed)
Directory of Law-related CD-ROMS 1997
Infosources Publishing, 1997, US$84.00 ($54.00 for 3 updates a year)
308 pp., ISBN 0-939486-44-X
CTI Law Technology Centre
This is a Book Review published on 31 October 1997.
Citation: Chadwick D, 'Arlene Eis (ed) Directory of Law-related CD-ROMs 1997', Book Review, 1997 (3) The Journal of Information, Law and Technology (JILT). <http://elj.warwick.ac.uk/jilt/bookrev/97_3chad/>. New citation as at 1/1/04: <http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/elj/jilt/1997_3/chadwick/>
Discussion arising from this article.
Infosources' directory provides details of a wide spread of CD-ROMs related to law. As this guide originates in the US it's probably to be expected that the bulk of the products are sourced from there too. In fact there are some prominent omissions for UK sources - there are no UK contact details for CCH Editions and ILI for instance. For this reason, it's real value is likely to be as a reference of information about products of non-UK origin.
Most of the CD-ROMs listed are reference-type products - often electronic versions of existing paper publications - rather than multimedia or computer-aided learning type material. But then this no doubt reflects the current bias towards these types of products in the legal market.
Although the majority of the CD-ROMs cover aspects of US law, spanning individual state legislation (such as the Administrative Rules of Montana) to subject specific titles (for example Drug Criminal Laws), there's a fair variety of material from other countries. A random sample includes titles such as the Australian Case Citator on CD-ROM, Base de Datos de Juisprudencia, European Competition Law CD-ROM, and Russian Legislation in English (GARANT).
The subject index reveals the extent of the domination of US titles. Out of the 1,200 products, no more than around 250 are from countries other than the US, with for example 54 Canadian, 42 Australian, 41 UK, and 22 German titles.
The bulk of the directory consists of details of individual CD-ROMs, published alphabetically in title order. For each CD-ROM up to 21 items of information are provided, including the publisher's name and contact details, the hardware and software requirements, language versions available and the price.
The directory has clearly been compiled directly from information provided by the suppliers themselves - the actual questionnaire used is included at the back. It is effectively a series of database reports printed in book form.
While this presents no problem in terms of the technical details provided, it does mean that you have to treat some of the entries with caution. Thankfully the description of each product does seem to have been subject to an editing process so that there is no obvious hyperbole. However, it is worth bearing in mind that descriptions stating that a CD covers a subject 'In-depth' or 'all major areas are included' are the suppliers own judgements on the products and not the directory publisher's.
Some products also include citations for publications where the product has been reviewed. Again, you have to remember that these have been supplied by the CD-ROM producer, so you're unlikely to find any references to bad reviews.
As well as the main product list, there are a number of indexes which allow you to search for CD-ROMs using criteria other than the product title.
The Subject Index lists CD-ROMs according to their topic area, such as copyright, or country, such as the United Kingdom. While this should probably be the most useful index, it doesn't appear to be particularly comprehensive. This is largely, one suspects, because each supplier has been limited to providing up to four index categories for each of its products. For instance, if you try to find a product related to Information Technology, there are only two entries (under Computer Hardware and Software) for 'Computer Animation in the Courtroom: A Primer' and 'The Legal Software Sampler' - no entries at all relating to IT Law.
An index of publisher/distributors is also likely to be frequently used. This lists suppliers alphabetically, together with their address details and the CD-ROM titles that they supply. Useful for Mac users is an index of the CD-ROMs which are compatible with the Macintosh. Of less obvious use is an index which lists the CD-ROMs according to the search software (such as Folio) which is utilised.
A bonus for subscribers to the directory is that some of the publishers listed (27 out of 228) will provide discounts of between 10-25% if you buy their products. These include companies such as ILI (25% off EUROLAW) and New Law Publishing (10% off the New Law CD-ROM). The offer is limited to 'new, first-time direct orders' though.
Overall, the value of this directory will depend upon your requirements. It only lists 250 products of non-US origin, but if, within that selection, you find just the CD-ROM you need for your research, you may think it's $84 well spent.