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The Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies as we have known it fills 130 hardcover books that take up some two dozen square feet of shelf space and cost about $3,000. So the lure of the massive collection condensed onto one slim compact disc at a price of $750 is strong.That doesn’t even take into account that CD-ROM technology allows a user to type in a term and sit back while the computer searches through everything on the disc for it. This function is one of the main advantages the digital OR holds over the printed version. The same task can be done by consulting the printed set’s index, but that requires much more time and effort, and the index can’t begin to approximate the comprehensiveness of an electronic search.

The problem with H-Bar Enterprises’ newly released OR on CD-ROM is the errors that occurred in retype setting the text. To some extent this is unavoidable, especially in such a mammoth undertaking, but a more thorough job of proofreading or a run through a software spellchecker would have helped. A misspelled word will be overlooked by the search function as it seeks a specific string of letters in a correct spelling. And numerical data may need to be checked against the printed OR to ensure accuracy.At least two other companies plan to release the OR on CD-ROM in the near future. It may be worth waiting to allow for comparison. H-Bar’s price of$750 falls well shy of the $3,000 needed for the 130 hardcover books, but it’s still a substantial investment. A safer investment, for now, may be H-Bar’s campaign-specific discs, such as the “Gettysburg” volume on which this review is based. They sell for $45.95 to $59.95.Carl Zebrowski

Official Record, H-Bar Enterprises, 1442 Davidson Loop, Oakman, AL 25579,one disc, $750.