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Reference Book of the Week: The CIA World Factbook

Cover CIA World Factbook 2007

Cover CIA World Factbook 2007

Welcome to another edition of the Reference Book of the Week. Today we are featuring a source straight from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA; link to official agency page). The CIA publishes annually The World Factbook. This is a great resource for country information; the book is a collection of country profiles. Do note that the concept of "country" is not just independent nations. Places like Puerto Rico (a U.S. territory) and the Isle of Man (a British dependency) have entries in the Factbook as well, so you can find information about a lot of places here.The CIA draws on various government agencies as well as public and private sources for the information in the book. The book has been published annually since 1981 with categories in the entries revised over time. With each entry, you get a set of categories: background, geography, government, economy, communications, military, transportation, and transnational issues (this would answer, for instance, if a particular country has an international dispute). The volume also features a set of helpful appendices in the back of the book and a set of color maps. So, what sort of questions can you answer with this book? For example,
  • Can you tell me how many airports does Benin have? Yes. It has five (as of 2006). Out of those five, only one is paved.
  • Can I get an economic overview of Israel? Yes, starting on page 288.
  • What is the capital of Mongolia? Ulaanbaatan is the capital of Mongolia (see page 388).
Now, a reader might wonder why would you want to know how many airports a country has? Or how many phone lines? Well, let's say you are doing research for a company, and that company wants to set up shop in some other nation. Maybe the nature of your business requires you to be able to move your goods from that country back into the U.S. Therefore, you need to be aware of what are you transportation options. Will you fly your goods? Move them by ship? If you want to use ships, does the country have ports? That is just one example of why you might want to use this book. Overall, when it comes to finding a good overview of any country in the world, The World Factbook is an excellent resource. The World Factbook is available in the library's Ready Reference Collection (that's the shelf right behind the reference desk). The call number is G 122 .U56a 2007. The library currently has the 2007 edition. The CIA also puts The World Factbook online (link is to the online edition). The information is the same as in the book; however, the online edition is updated faster than the print. The latest online edition is the 2008 edition. The online version provides a quick pull-down menu where you can select the country and then get to the information for that country. The website also provides options for downloading the book. Do note that the downloads are big files.
Published by root on 06 Nov