Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Encyclopedia Britannica And Bob Dylan

In light of the fact that Mily Cyrus will participate in a Bob Dylan Tribute album, it seems only right to have use a classic sung by Dylan himself to introduce the fact that Encyclopedia Britannica will no longer publish hard copies of the encyclopedia.

After 244 years, the Encyclopaedia Britannica is going out of print.
Those coolly authoritative, gold-lettered reference books that were once sold door-to-door by a fleet of traveling salesmen and displayed as proud fixtures in American homes will be discontinued, company executives said.
In an acknowledgment of the realities of the digital age — and of competition from the Web site Wikipedia — Encyclopaedia Britannica will focus primarily on its online encyclopedias and educational curriculum for schools. The last print version is the 32-volume 2010 edition, which weighs 129 pounds and includes new entries on global warming and the Human Genome Project.
“It’s a rite of passage in this new era,” Jorge Cauz, the president of Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc., a company based in Chicago, said in an interview. “Some people will feel sad about it and nostalgic about it. But we have a better tool now. The Web site is continuously updated, it’s much more expansive and it has multimedia.” . . . .
Since it was started 11 years ago, Wikipedia has moved a long way toward replacing the authority of experts with the wisdom of the crowds. The site is now written and edited by tens of thousands of contributors around the world, and it has been gradually accepted as a largely accurate and comprehensive source, even by many scholars and academics
Wikipedia also regularly meets the 21st-century mandate of providing instantly updated material. And it has nearly four million articles in English, including some on pop culture topics that would not be considered worthy of a mention in the Encyclopaedia Britannica.
My family could not afford the Britannica set, but my father made sure we had a set of encyclopedias in the house. I guess I'm to blame as much as anyone; I can't remember the last time I went to an encyclopedia instead of the Web.  Still it's sad to know, "[o]nly 8,000 sets of the 2010 edition have been sold, and the remaining 4,000 have been stored in a warehouse until they are bought."


Julie.T said...

The ease of "browsing" through a set of encyclopedias when I was in my early school years is what I think the youth of today have already or will lose. Like paging through a National Geographic magazine and discovering new and different things you could never imagine to search for, the encyclopedia provided immediate access to varied content. You pulled one off the shelf, never knowing what it contained, and always found something of interest as you paged through the volumes of interesting facts and information.
i hope they can duplicate that experience on-line. I will be checking how well they have done.
I use wiki all the time but I know what I am looking for, the wandering wonder world of youth may not know what to search for and may need what we experienced in the "pedia", exploring the world "at your fingertips" with just the flip of a page.

D.E. Bishop said...

I'm one who used to page through the encyclopedias for exactly the same reasons Julie mentioned. You never knew what you were going to get.

I've done some of the same with dictionaries.