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Animators, video artists and musicians who send their work to art directors on reels or tapes now have another option: a CD-ROM distributed by a major publisher of art sourcebooks.

Virtual Portfolio contains the work of some 80 musicians, animators and videographers. Starting this month, American Showcase, an art sourcebook publisher, will distribute 3,000 copies free to ad agencies and corporate art departments that have CD-ROM drives.

Virtual Portfolio grew out of artist Charlie Magee's efforts to market his work in a form clients might use.

In 1991, as president of Eugene, Ore.-based One World Interactive, Mr. Magee and company VP Vicky Ayers began putting their work and others' on disc. But they quickly found they didn't enjoy sales.

So One World hooked up with American Showcase, which has published and distributed printed sourcebooks for 18 years. American Showcase handles sales, distribution and manufacturing of the CD-ROM.

A first edition was sent to ad agencies last summer. Artists pay a minimum of $650 to appear on two editions of Virtual Portfolio each year. (Pricing depends on how much room the work takes up on the disc.)

Now available for Apple Macintosh computers, the CD-ROM should be Windows-compatible by summer, Mr. Magee said.

"We've been looking into doing CD-ROMs for years," said Ann Middlebrook, VP-marketing at American Showcase, New York, which publishes a print sourcebook of digital art called New Media Showcase. "That's where we think the industry is moving."

Many companies publish CD-ROMs of stock photography, and by next year, at least one other sourcebook publisher plans to have a CD-ROM.

"I want to be ready when the industry is ready," said Alexis Scott, publisher of sourcebooks from Scott & Daughters, Los Angeles. "We've got another year before the industry is going to have enough CD-ROM players."

Scott & Daughters' version, with the working name "Workbook Portfolio Film and Print," will be distributed free to about 4,500 art directors.

Not everyone in ad agencies is comfortable using CD-ROMs, which aren't as transportable as a printed book.

"It takes a little educational process as far as art directors knowing what to do with it," Mr. Magee said.

For artists, the CD-ROM is a welcome new way to show samples of their work.

"It's a beginning," said illustrator Erik Adigard. But while Virtual Portfolio advances the technology, it will someday be replaced by online links, he said.

"It will take some time before people understand how to do an interface that's easy to use, streamlined, smooth, but also exciting," he said.

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