QUICK LOOK: Cambridge Companions Online

Cambridge Companions Online

An ebook collection
Date: 26 September 2019

Summary: This product offers good value for libraries interested in e-books covering the broad range of topics included in this collection.  Some of these titles could be used as textbooks or supplementary readings for community college classes.

Cambridge Companions Online is an ebook collection from Cambridge University Press.  It is the online version of the print series.  The collection is a series of over 600 e-books offering introductions to major writers, artists, philosophers, composers, topics, and periods. These guides include essays on literature, poetry, theatre, philosophy, law, music, religion, history, science and culture.​​ More titles are added as they are published in print. A complete title list is available in Excel format.

Libraries can access these titles either through publisher-provided MARC records or through an online interface.  As discussed below, the online search interface has some problems and subscribers might wish to instead to access this content using the MARC records.

Access policies for the content are liberal; users may view content online or download chapters of a title as PDFs, or have them sent to a Kindle, DropBox or Google Drive account.

The home page for the Cambridge Companions content is the Cambridge Core collection page. This searches all content in that collection unless the user checks a button to “only search content I have access to.” For example, a search for “Shakespeare” retrieves 6419 results, but on the result screen there is a refine search option that shows that there are only 375 items that the Cambridge Companions user has access to. It is possible to use a different start page with options pre-selected that only search the Cambridge Companions content, but this option is not well documented by Cambridge.

Search results from the Cambridge Core page also include open access journal content by default. This content is often not relevant to the search topic as many of these journals are in the sciences, and the Cambridge Companions content is primarily focused on humanities and belles lettres.  A user must check the “Books” or the “Chapters” button to exclude the irrelevant “Articles” content.

Search results also include titles in the series that are not yet published, even if the “Only show content I have access to” button is checked.

The Cambridge Core web page includes much extraneous and irrelevant material such as advertisements  for other Cambridge University Press products, links for job announcements at CUP, a link to their blog, a shopping cart icon for purchases and links to print content published by CUP.

The content is a good value for the resources provided, even though the web interface could use improvement.

Similar content

  • The Oxford Reference Online ebook package offers somewhat similar content, but at a higher price.
  • Other collections (?)


Content Providers

If you have any experience with this product, please leave a comment and rate its appropriateness for use in a community college environment.

† The offers and trials information are password protected. Actual prices are confidential between the vendor and the consortium.

For access contact Amy Beadle, Library Consortium Director, 916.800.2175.

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