The 1st formal edition (bearing an ISBN) is now available for purchase from this website at a price of £59.99 including postage and packing.
There is often debate on the best format for a reference book – for instance whether the Web, a CD or a traditional book is the most desirable. I prefer a traditonal book for research but Plant Biographies is so large now (and continually growing) that handling this would be impracticable in traditional book format. (It is anticipated that the new edition will exceed 5000 pages.) Consequently the debate at this stage is between the Web and a CD – each having different advantages.
The CD is laid out as a dictionary which lends itself to alphabetic presentation of common and botanical names. The genera are integrated into the dictionary too and, within each genus, those of its species for which there are entries appear in similar order. Not only does this layout enable the reader to find the genera or species concerned quickly but also the opportunity to see at a glance when a common name (in whatever language) or a botanical synonym has been adopted by more than one species – something that happens a surprising number of times. The extensive General Index (preceded by a Summary or overview of the subjects covered) illustrates not only the multi-disciplinary breadth of the work but the terms which could be worth using to search for subjects/issues embraced by the Project. Also, the General Index includes ‘other’ names by which a person/body can be known as well as, for example, alternative subject, place or event names – and it embraces detailed subject breakdowns under nationalities, tribes, and religions. The disadvantage of the CD is that one has to wait for a new edition for updates and the inclusion of new species – unless you interrogate the Website.
Conversely the Website is updated at the same time as the Master copy and it can be searched for any word or term. The General Index on the CD is replaced by Lists of subjects covered (a snapshot of them in 2006) If you are new to Plant Biographies (or have been uable to take time to investigate its contents and ramifications – not least by reading some of the background material) the extent and breadth of the information is unlikely to be apparent and searches on the website could be limited to a botanical or common plant name. For this reason, if no other I would argue, it is not as easy to dip into as that of the CD presentation and much of the fascinating material could be missed.