Twenty titles are planned over the next 12 months for this text plus CD-Rom series, with the opening batch comprising Tess of the d'Urbervilles; Macbeth; Romeo and Juliet; Pride and Prejudice and The Merchant of Venice. The texts are attractively presented, and offer more than just the bare bones that we'd all come to accept as fair enough for a pound. Each has a scholarly yet unfussy introduction and useful textual notes. The CD-Rom for Pride and Prejudice loads easily enough, and the quality of commentary compares well with that found in a decent set of GCSE pass-notes. Where this resource really scores, however, is in the good use made of the potential of hypertext, with a profusion of links - often as many as a ozen on any one screen - that allow students to follow their own instincts and inclinations. It is not all text, either - another point scored over conventional pass notes. Maps of the various locations mentioned in the novel, and contemporary paintings, many in colour and some expandable to full screen size, add to the enjoyment of browsing.
There is no obvious marker as to where exactly in this virtual wonderland one has ended up, although a permanent menu at the left hand side of the screen ensures that while you might forget where you are, you can at least see where you want to get to. On the whole, this series appears to be excellent value and is likely to appeal to the current generation of cyber-literate students.
Iain MacDonald is head of English at Bishop Vesey's grammar school