Parents have always bought National Geographic magazine to expand their children's horizons as much as their own. Both will find an almost inexhaustible source of information and entertainment in The Complete National Geographic, an astounding collection of every article, photograph, and advertisement from 110 years of the magazine's history.
For those of us who suffered through sunny afternoons spent with the Dewey decimal system–or, heaven help us, the microfiche machines–the marvel of a century's worth of this impressive magazine on CD-ROM can't be underestimated. The pictures come alive on the screen, and a robust search engine delivers spectacular results. (Especially in these days of watered-down and inappropriate search results, the National Geographic Library is a perfect synthesis of information and modern technology for wary parents.)
Of course, with this much information, it's impossible to package the material easily–the collection holds over 30 CDs, and interchanging discs based on the date can be a painful process. Be sure not to lose the installation CD, either, as it's the key to the set. Some technical disappointments appear, too, typical of print sources that make the jump to high tech; in particular, the print is difficult to read unless enlarged–and when enlarged, the pages don't fit without scrolling, even on a larger screen.
Even with that in mind, this is a set not to be missed. A literal library, it impresses with its heft and panoramic view of the world–and, sometimes, of the universe. A must for fans, a treat for kids and adults, The Complete National Geographic is an inspirational compendium. –Jennifer Buckendorff