My wife, the wise person and actual librarian in our household, asked me the other day why I was doing this at all—since libraries surely aren’t buying new CD-ROM titles. I gave her a response similar to what I said back in July 2010 (Cites & Insights 10:8), and I think that’s still valid. Briefly, since libraries don’t automatically discard books from the late 1990s, and since many of these title CD-ROMs were “expanded books” in one way or another, I thought it would be worth seeing whether they still run on contemporary computers, whether they still seem worthwhile, what’s replaced them and so on—along with some notes from when I first reviewed them.
On the other hand…the first six CD-ROMs I tried out this month wouldn’t install at all. Period. In no case was this terribly surprising, but in some cases it was disappointing. After writing up earlier notes on three of them that had been quite interesting (if flawed) “virtual museums,” I realized I no longer had the heart to track down possible web alternatives and that, indeed, recounting how these titles used to work was mostly a history of things lost and a trifle depressing. Remembering when title CD-ROMs were touted as the Next Big Thing, possibly even replacing books, I will note this: Any book I purchased in 1995-1999 is still readable—but many title CD-ROMs purchased in that period are now entirely useless. [I was going to qualify “any book” with “except mass-market paperbacks”—but all the mass-market paperbacks I have from the mid-90s are entirely readable, as are ones that date back to 1965, cheap acid paper and all.]