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Reference books

USBORNE INTERNET-LINKED SERIES: Science Encyclopedia pound;30. Encyclopedia of World History pound;30. Children's World Cookbook pound;9.99. Introduction To Music pound;12.99.

The hardware and software that will make e-books a reality are now becoming available but it will be some time before net-connected e-books are mainstream.

In the meantime, publishers have to provide products that bridge the print and electronic worlds. These Usborne titles - let's be clear - are printed books and a computer is not essential for their use.

The Science and History volumes are more than 400 pages each and are extensively illustrated. Each spread deals with a specific topic, using concise explanations and maps, drawings and diagrams, as appropriate.

The books are great for reference and browsing as well as help with homework across key stage 2 and 3, with the encyclopedias also being useful reference sources for older pupils.

The Introduction to Music and Children's World Cookbook are slimmer volumes (each just under 100 pages) produced in the same two-page layout.

I like these two as they provide a blend of informative reading and things to do. the cookbook, which offers the greatest scope for practical work, has 50 clear, easy-to-follow recipes from around te world, plus some general sections on topics such as cheeses, breads, and fruits of the world.

The music book has suggestions for building a themed music collection. They also both provide the website information that makes all the books internet-linked. Each book has lots of suggested websites and some, particularly in relation to science, provide interactivity.

as well as lists of general sites at the beginning of each section of the history and science books, specific site references appear on the relevant pages. The music and cookery books are less linked and, generally, the links are shown within the text. Thoughtfully, Usborne has also provided an easy way of accessing the websites through a "Quicklinks" button on its own website, so you don't have to type in long addresses to access the information.

The internet-linked books are attractive and useful in their own right, making them a sound addition to home or school library. But if you have a computer and internet access, their value is significantly enhanced. The Science volume, for example, is a 400-page encyclopedia with more than 1,000 websites - that's some added value.

Les Watson is director of learning and information resources at Glasgow Caledonian University

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