Review: The CIA World Factbook – 2016

December 13, 2015

cia factbook

Well, I guess this is the first publication I have bought that was authored by The Central Intelligence Agency. It is, however, published by Skyhorse Publishing, which I believe also prints some out-there conspiracy books among their wide selection. At 940 pages The CIA World Factbook (2016 edition) is a real brick of a book. Of course, it’s not meant to be read page-by-page, it is a reference book where information on every country in the world is organized.
The introduction to the book is pretty interesting in itself; it describes the history of the Factbook, which began to be published after World War Two. Clearly there was a need to have one consolidated unit of basic intelligence on countries that the United States was involved with. The intro describes The intelligence cycle as 1. information (raw data) 2. intelligence (collected and integrated information) and 3. finished intelligence (prepared intelligence for policy makers).
Further, there are three types of finished intelligence; basic intelligence (fundamental and factual material), current intelligence (new development) and estimative intelligence (judging probable outcomes). All three are mutually supportive. The factbook contains over twenty pages of definitions of the information contained in each analysis.
The CIA World Factbook is a great coffee table book for world travelers or information geeks. I mean, you just can’t imagine all the obscure but important statistics that are presented in this thing. Just taking a skim through the pages we see: agriculture, airports, birth rates, budgets, climate, coastlines, constitution, debt, distribution of income, drinking water, electricity, economy, physical resources, industry, hospitals, internet use, infant mortality, legal system, military, maritime claims, natural gas, pipelines, ports, religions… you get the idea. There are some countries in the book that I had never heard about, information just spills out of this thing.
The only thing I think they could have done better is the maps. The print on the maps is fairly light, and the paper stock it somewhat thin. I believe this may have saved money in publishing. A good world atlas would be a necessary companion to this volume.
And talking about price of publication, it’s so affordable you almost can’t pass it up. I bought my copy online, and the price was $11.57 including shipping.
It is a fascinating book to browse through, and for very specific information it may be useful to international businessmen, travelers – or spies.
Hey, at $12.00, why not?

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One Response to Review: The CIA World Factbook – 2016

  1. Mr. Patterson on December 16, 2015 at 2:38 am

    Have you tried the online version? Used to teach it when I taught business research. Very useful!

    https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/

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