REVIEW. First published November 1, 2007 (Booklist).
Sage eReference is a small but growing reference collection. Currently, it contains more than 50 Sage titles (multivolume social-science subject encyclopedias, published since 2002), with 62 on target for year’s end. Among the currently available titles are Encyclopedia of Crime and Punishment (2002), Encyclopedia of World Poverty (2006), and Encyclopedia of American Urban History (2007). The collection is designed using the same principles as other e-book interfaces, with browse and keyword search options. Users can browse by title or within 20 subjects, such as African American Studies or Health and Social Welfare. In Advanced Search, searching can be done within a title, across the entire collection to which a library subscribes, or in titles selected by the user. Advanced Search also includes Boolean options and limits to articles with sidebars, images, or tables. Searches can be limited to content types, such as articles, further reading, contributor lists, or introductions, although some content (all front and back matter) is available only in PDF format.
To meet the needs of students, who consistently say “Where am I?” while searching, Sage has designed its interface with several visual cues, including a unique top banner for each reference-book title. This banner, a montage of the book cover design, is present on every page and changes according to the title being viewed. It is visually pleasing, stylish, and useful for reminding users where they are. Each encyclopedia’s home page also includes a summary of the encyclopedia, Browse and Advanced Search tabs for searching within the encyclopedia, and links to front and back matter. Unfortunately, it’s easy to get trapped searching one reference title, since links back to the main search page are unclear.
Another distinctive aspect of Sage eReference is the Reader’s Guide, a feature found in all Sage print encyclopedias and a dynamic navigation tool online. Each guide contains about 15 key themes and offers multiple subtopics, a good way to guide users to topics they may not have thought to search.
Search results are displayed 10 items per page by relevance; the sort order can be changed to title A–Z or Z–A. Articles display with any images and sidebars and links to related entries and further readings. Each title’s index, table of contents, further readings, and see also references are hyperlinked for easy navigation; however, the text within entries is not. Basic printing and e-mailing options are available, but results cannot be stored or exported. The default MLA-style citation format can be changed to APA or Chicago style. Font and word spacing are rather large, and although this means there is less information per page, it is easier to read. There are no options for library customization.
Sage eReference titles are also available in Gale Virtual Reference Library, but those with access via GVRL will need to purchase again with Sage due to licensing and access issues. Why buy again? According to Rolf Janke, vice president and publisher of Sage, “In the future we hope to see a seamless integration of all Sage content (journals, books, reference, handbooks) in one electronic platform.” For a typical academic library with 5,000 FTE, Sage charges 125 percent of the print title, and titles are purchased to own. Access fees are waived for the first 5 years and after that are nominal but based on titles owned. (Last accessed September 6, 2007.) — Sue Polanka