AS INTEREST IN THE INTERNET and computer services such as America Online explodes, it seems as if everyone is clamoring for a piece of the online pie. The most recent arrivals: CD-ROM publishers.
According to InfoTech, a market researcher in Woodstock, Vt., the number of CD-ROM titles designed to work with information from networks will grow from 311 last year to as many as 6,500 by 2000 (chart). One early example is Compton's Encyclopedia, whose software lets owners get updated entries from America Online. Over time, these hybrid CD-ROMS will range from games that let people compete over networks, to multimedia electronic catalogs that look to a network for prices and other data--and perhaps even transmit purchase orders electronically. A particularly popular category right now is disks that help people learn how to use the Internet. Besides panels of text and graphics that explain the Net's technologies and structure, the disks often contain easy-to-use Internet software.