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Applying evaluation criteria for Web-based information sources to paper-based information sources

A review of The Meaning of Relativity (Princeton University Press, 1945) by Albert Einstein

It is hard to imagine a more straightforward or convenient introduction to such a timely topic on Applying evaluation criteria for Web-based information sources to paper-based information sources. For those feeling overwhelmed by cosmological problems in the context of space/ time continua, this tool will be a welcome addition to their repertoire of one-stop, no-nonsense, all-in-one learning aids and devices.

I rank this resource’s accessibility quite high; I was able to get into it quickly and repeatedly throughout the day, even during peak hours. Reliability was also above average because the infrastructure that coordinates its 135 pages functions smoothly. The information retrieval mechanism never locked up or froze, virtually eliminating downtime.

This source is extremely well organised, featuring an outline of die contents in tabular form and consecutive page numbers. I was also pleased not to find the Roman/Arabic numbering glitch, a systems incompatibility problem common in the opening pages of many cellulose-based data products.

The visual layout is remarkably consistent. Each page follows a standard format, with good use of white space in the margins and helpful running titles. The typography is crisp and unpretentious, and the choice of black lettering on a white background makes for superb reading comfort. Eyestrain was not a problem, even after several hours’ perusal. The text is refreshingly free of advertising material.

Hypertext capability is well developed. The index contains many more keywords than I would ever need, and they provide direct links to specific pages. Moreover, even without the index, I was able to jump from any point in the text to any other point with just a flick of the wrist. Thanks to a thematic organizational structure, navigation is intuitive.

Graphics are of high resolution, suitable for photocopying, tracing, digital scanning, creating transparencies, or displaying via opaque projectors. Although impressive in their high definition, the illustrations never overpower the text or distract the reader.

It is clear who is responsible for this work’s intellectual content because the author is identified on a page bearing the official title. His credentials, however, are not listed. The sponsoring institution is also prominently named, although no contact information is provided.

The lack of citations and links to other sources does beg the question of how much faith to put in the author’s expertise. Granted, his bias towards physics in general, and relativity in particular, is clearly stated from the opening page. Still, prudence is in order. Verification of facts is certainly recommended, particularly in the mathematical formulas.

The version I reviewed is unambiguously identified as the second edition, and the strongest indication that the work is complete, and is not still under construction, is the final paragraph, which begins “Last and not least. ..”

Finally, treating usage as a valid criterion, I judge this resource to be very worthwhile. More than one page boasts the telltale dog-ear image registering its usefulness, not to mention occasional smudges, underlines, and annotations indicative of heavily used pulp-based information sites. Einstein’s treatise has been accessed 48 times by users outside the library, and presumably even more times by intralibrary users.

Highly recommended as a content-rich, fiber-based reference, despite an avowedly selective scope and relatively narrow focus.

URL: 5301 E35m or alternate location QC6 .E431945. Accessible from any library that owns it or has interlibrary loan capabilities.—Kirk Doran, Dickinson College, doran@dickinson.edu.

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