Some Work, Many Don’t

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.]

For the rest of the story… or read The CD-ROM Project as part of Cites & Insights 11:6

2 Responses to “Some Work, Many Don’t”

  1. laura says:

    My one experience of a 1990s CD-ROM in the 2010s came a couple of years ago, with a National Geographic CD-ROM that was designed for. . . Windows 95. It was not a pretty sight. But I suspect a lot of libraries still have these things sitting around gathering dust, and that at least some of them (like ours) will have discarded physical items that duplicate the content on the theory that “oh, it’s all on that disc.” Which is all to say I think it’s a worthwhile project.

  2. walt says:

    Thanks for that comment. It has been interesting to see which CD-ROMs worked and which didn’t. I still have about 30 to go, and will get to them…soon. Or not.