World Book Encyclopedia

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World Book
Country United States
Language English
Subject General
Genre Reference encyclopedia
Publication date
LC Class AE5 .W55

The World Book Encyclopedia is an encyclopedia published in the United States. The encyclopedia is designed to cover major areas of knowledge uniformly, but it shows particular strength in scientific, technical, and medical subjects.[1] It is based in Chicago, Illinois. The first edition (1917) contained eight volumes. New editions have since appeared every year except 1920, 1924, and 1932, with major revisions in 1929 (13 volumes), 1933 (19 volumes), 1960 (20 volumes), 1971 (22 volumes), and 1988 (new typeface and page design, and some 10,000 new editorial features).[2][3]

The 1917 edition was published by the Hanson-Roach-Fowler Company, but within two years, World Book became the property of W.F. Quarrie & Company. In 1945, the World Book Encyclopedia became the property of Field Enterprises. In 1978, World Book was purchased by Scott Fetzer Company,[2] which in turn has been a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway since 1985.


World Book Encyclopedia (1990)

Over the years, the World Book has been characterized by its design. Unlike most other encyclopedias, it is traditionally published in variously sized volumes, depending on the letter of the alphabet. Although most volumes cover exactly one letter completely, the letters with exceptionally numerous entries ("C" and "S") are divided between two volumes, while adjacent letters with relatively few entries ("J"–"K", "N"–"O", "Q"–"R", "U"–"V", and "W"–"Z") share a volume. World Book editors lay out major articles distinctly, often starting them on a page of their own, perhaps with a two-column heading. The World Book is marketed as a "family" encyclopedia for readers above 15 years of age.[4] It recognizes that one of the primary uses of general-purpose encyclopedias is students' work on school reports. For instance, every article for a U.S. state has a box giving information about such things as the official state bird and tree and each President of the United States gets a very distinctive look with an oversized portrait, a timeline and significant historial events that occurred during that president's administration.

It claims to be the most up-to-date commercial encyclopedia, with 33 percent of its pages revised each year.[5] Illustrations account for about one third of the layout, and some 80 percent are in color. The encyclopedia makes heavy use of cross-referencing and contains a large analytical index of more than 150,000 entries.[6]

Alternative editions[edit]

Braille 1959 World Book Encyclopedia

In 1962, World Book produced a Braille edition, which filled 145 volumes and nearly 40,000 pages. The project was mainly an effort in goodwill, for the company did not see its way clear to selling enough copies of the set to cover production costs. Eventually, all sets of the Braille edition were donated to several institutions for the blind. In 1964, the company also published a large-print edition.[7]

An electronic version of the encyclopedia for Macintosh and Windows computers first appeared in 1990, but did not have as much impact as the only other CD-ROM encyclopedia available at that time, Academic American Encyclopedia.

An international version, aimed at English-speakers outside of North America, was also produced in 1992.

Since 1998, in addition to the print and CD-ROM editions of the 22-volume, 13,800-page encyclopedia, World Book also publishes an online version called the World Book Online Reference Center.[8] The online version includes all of the articles contained in the print set as well as several thousand additional articles and the contents of every yearbook World Book has published since 1922.

Digital multimedia encyclopedia[edit]

World Book Encyclopedia is also published in electronic form for Microsoft Windows and Apple's Mac OS X. Electronic editions contain the entire text of the 22-volume World Book Encyclopedia, plus illustrations, video clips, 3D panoramic views, and sounds. The articles bring together a complete story, multimedia content, an article outline, research aids and links to related information. Online updates to articles and a "Month in Brief" time browser are available by subscription.

Apple included a bundled copy of the Mac OS X Edition of World Book Encyclopedia when they made OS X the default operating system for all new computers.[9] This edition had some Mac-only features including a more intuitive user interface, Sticky Notes sharing via Bonjour technology, Trivia Challenge game, a collection of editor-approved webcams, Notepad, speech capabilities and "This Day in History", "Media Showcase" and "Librarian" widgets.

Since November 2007, both Windows and Mac electronic editions of World Book Encyclopedia are developed and published by Software MacKiev.

Associated publishing projects[edit]

Other World Book products include:

  • The World Book Dictionary (1st edition in 1963)
  • The World Book Cyclo-Teacher child self-learning aide system (sold in the 1960s)
  • The World Book Student Discovery Encyclopedia, an encyclopedia for younger students (since 1999)
  • Childcraft
  • World Book's Animals of the World.
  • Our Living World of Nature book series; developed with the U.S. Department of the Interior, published by McGraw-Hill (1967)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Encyclopedias in English and Other Languages". Library Research Guides. Indiana University. [dead link]
  2. ^ a b " history". 
  3. ^ Kobasa, Paul A. (2008). "Encyclopedia". World Book Online Reference Center. Retrieved 2008-01-13. 
  4. ^ "The World Book Encyclopedia 2012". 
  5. ^ "World Book Encyclopedia 2012". 
  6. ^ Kennedy, Scott (1999). Reference Sources for Small and Medium-sized Libraries. p. 27. 
  7. ^ Stockwell, Foster (2001). A History of Information Storage and Retrieval. p. 137. 
  8. ^ "World Book". 
  9. ^ "MACWORLD EXPO 2002 Press Announcement". Retrieved 2010-04-27. 

External links[edit]