08 May 2012

No More Encyclopaedias

Quick, when I mention the word Encyclopaedia, what brand springs to mind? Depending on how recently you were born I would wager that you either said Encyclopaedia Britannica, or else Wikipedia. True there may also have been some Encartas thrown in there, or if you are like me, a reference to good old Funk and Wagnall’s. But chances are that Encyclopaedia Britannica, once considered the epitome of condensed and categorised knowledge, was the first brand to spring to mind.
It bugs me that this image has disorganised books a little too much....
But the times have changed. To those of you who have only just discovered the internet and this so-called information revolution (there might be some of you out there), it may shock you to discover that electronic mediums are slowly replacing many forms of physical ones. However, to the rest of us living in the modern world, this has long been an accepted turn of affairs. The latest casualty of this natural progression is the aforementioned repository of earthly knowledge.
That's right, the last edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, edition 15 which was printed in 2010, will indeed be just that; the last one ever printed.
2010 took both Britannica and Lost from us; it was a tough year.
I feel a slight pang of nostalgia here, as having hailed from the days before the internet I fondly remember constantly flicking through my parents Funk and Wagnall’s encyclopaedias, and searching for answers on a variety of unrelated questions. I was a very curious child, and had the questionably endearing quality so often prized in children of asking ‘why, why; why!’ of everyone until invariably I had to move from reluctant and annoyed people, to amenable and complacent books.
Ah books, you shall never call me annoying, nor implore me to shut up.
But all that being said, any sadness I feel at losing these old physically bound books pales in comparison to the excitement (and thinly veiled jealousy) I feel every time my son and I consult the internet, with its vast catacombs of information, at his persistent (and I wish I could claim genetically inherited) requests of ‘why, why; why!’. After all, things generally find themselves being replaced by more fitting alternatives; such is the nature of progress. Who can deny that the new mediums of computers, the internet, and a multitude of other connectable devices, have far greater capacity for the advance of knowledge than the still admirable, though wholly innovation saturated, physical books?
However Britannica lovers out there, do not despair; the Encyclopaedia bearing its name isn’t disappearing entirely. The company responsible for its creation is simply doing the smart thing and embracing the online frontier, with their focus now being delivering their lauded product in the digital arena.
At least the ascension of Wikipedia means that given we are looking at an Americanized (the 'z' in there is on purpose) information source as the go to receptacle for this generation, I won’t have to try and remember which order the 'a's and 'e's go in 'paedia'.

1 comment:

  1. Funk and wagnalls all the way bro. This is how I used to find info for my high school projects!
    Old school.