Readers can browse by authors, individual works, or editions; quick prompts lead to well-known authors such as Donne or Shakespeare. Although the platform is powerful, the array of functions on the screen can make them seem more complex or obscure than necessary. For example, editions can be sorted by title or by date of original print publication, but to see a list in volume number order, the user must consult a navigation bar on the left side of the screen, not the regular browse list. Browsing a list of works by title displays the names of authors before the titles of the works, which can be confusing. Readers can advance through any section of a text using a scroll bar, but to advance between sections they must either select from the contents navigation column or use page-turning arrows in the upper left-hand corner of the screen. Expanding the contents navigation field would help display contents of related volumes, such as volumes 1 and 2 of Herford and Simpson's Ben Jonson: The Man and His Work.
The functions for content browsing, searching, and linking within a work may fall short of the navigational familiarity achieved by thumbing through print volumes. The screen display conveniently shows the original text side by side with the linked annotations, or the reader can choose to view either text or critical notes separately. There are both “Editors notes” and “Critical Apparatus,” but it is uncertain whether the editors notes are supplied for the digital editions. Notes for accompanying narrative essays (footnotes from the print editions) are displayed as endnotes. For example, the introductory essay on Volpone in Ben Jonson: the Man and His Work (volume 2) displays the digital editor's notes in the right-hand column and the original footnotes all in a group at the end of the essay. This results in multiple notes (1, 2, 3, etc.) all appearing on one page.
The mechanisms for linking to sources miss some helpful opportunities, which perhaps may be supplied in the future. The anchored links navigate seamlessly between sections of text and relevant notes (although in the case of the multiple endnotes it is difficult to follow which note relates to which page). There are also "mouse-over" references to some commonly cited sources including variant text editions. But there are no links to citations for secondary sources (such as in Ben Jonson, Every Man in His Humour, Act 1 scene 1, a note referencing Nares, which is probably Edward Nares' Heraldic Anomalies, 1824).
A greater disappointment is the lack of systematic linking between referenced sections of works, for instance between acts in Othello. There are links to lines referenced within an act, but one must paste in a location reference and search to find references to lines in other acts and scenes. And there are no links to other referenced works within the OSEO corpus. One problem with the existing link mechanism is the lack of an easy return to the original note reference. Another wonderful opportunity for the future would be to provide full sets of facsimile pages scanned from the original texts, rather than selected examples.
Some of the confusing navigation issues probably derive from the fact that the xml text mark-up logically follows the structure of the original volumes, which varies since they were issued over time under various editors, covering a variety of scope. For instance, standard abbreviations for frequently cited sources appear in different locations in different editions: the source abbreviations for the essays in volumes 1 and 2 of Ben Jonson: the Man and His Work are embedded at the beginning of the Index under End Matter in volume 2, whereas the source abbreviations for Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra are in the Front Matter, at the end of the Editorial Procedures notes.
At the same time, having the searchable text and marked up structure will ultimately provide greater accessibility to these authoritative works. A review in CHOICE noted: "These digitized scholarly editions are not intended to eclipse the print volumes . . . What this new version does confer is a whole new level of discoverability."1