Microsoft Bookshelf was a reference collection introduced in 1987 as part of Microsoft's extensive work in promoting CD-ROM technology as a distribution medium for electronic publishing. The original MS-DOS version showcased the massive storage capacity of CD-ROM technology, and was accessed while the user was using one of 13 different word processor programs that Bookshelf supported. Subsequent versions were produced for Windows and became a commercial success as part of the Microsoft Home brand. It was often bundled with personal computers as a cheaper alternative to the Encarta Suite. The Encarta Deluxe Suite / Reference Library versions also bundled Bookshelf.
The original 1987 edition contained The Original Roget's Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases, The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, World Almanac and Book of Facts, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, The Chicago Manual of Style (13th Edition), the U.S. ZIP Code Directory, Houghton Mifflin Usage Alert, Houghton Mifflin Spelling Verifier and Corrector, Business Information Sources, and Forms and Letters.
The Windows release of Bookshelf added a number of new reference titles, including the The Concise Columbia Encyclopedia and an Internet Directory. Other titles were added and some were dropped in subsequent years. By 1994, the English-language version also contained the Columbia Dictionary of Quotations; The Concise Columbia Encyclopedia; the Hammond Intermediate World Atlas; and The People's Chronology. By 2000, the collection came to include the Encarta Desk Encyclopedia, the Encarta Desk Atlas, the Encarta Style Guide and a specialized Computer and Internet Dictionary by Microsoft Press.
Bookshelf was discontinued in 2000. In later editions of the Encarta suite, (Encarta 2000 and onwards), Bookshelf was replaced with a dedicated Encarta Dictionary, a superset of the printed edition. There has been some controversy over the decision, since the dictionary lacks the other books provided in Bookshelf which many found to be a useful reference, such as the dictionary of quotations (replaced with a quotations section in Encarta that links to relevant articles and people) and the Internet Directory, although the directory is now a moot point since many of the sites listed in offline directories no longer exist.