The end of an Era—No more Encyclopedia Britannica

After well over two hundred years of publication, The Encyclopedia Britannica has decided to close the doors on its presses.

No more hard bound, tangible versions.  It will still, however, be available on-line.

I have mixes feelings about this.  Most of them are purely sentimental.  An abridged version of the Encyclopedia Britannica (One volume, that weighed about 90 pounds written in typeface you needed a magnifying glass to read) got me through all of high school and some of college.  It was an old friend.

I remember those all-too-thin pages that were almost translucent.  I remember the gold letters carved out on the sides of the pages to help me find my way.

I loved that book.  What an incredible resource.

I believe I still have it.  I think it is in my attic
(I know-not a good place for it)

I was thinking over all of the reports that I have done with my kids in the last few years.  I could have dug it out, and showed them how to do “tangible” research.

This is no longer our culture.  We don’t need to lug around huge volumes of encyclopedias when we can just “Google it”.

Yes, you need to be careful with internet research, but there is a wealth of information out there, and it is updated faster than any print-volume of a reference book.  (As Encyclopedia Britannica found out.)

I don’t know.  Part of me is still sad to see paper go.  But this is a natural evolution of the age we are in.

In my novel, there is a chapter where my main character sees printed books.  He is surprised, because printed books are such a luxury.

I wonder how long it will be before this is actually true in this galaxy.


18 responses to “The end of an Era—No more Encyclopedia Britannica

  1. I hope printed books as a luxury item never comes to pass. I much prefer paper books to ebooks and always will.

    • I do too, unless they are really heavy ones. I have to admit, though, that I see hard-covers being a thing of the past.

      I imagine books starting as ebooks (replacng hard covers) and only the sucessful ones going to paperback as the norm in the next few years

      (There are a lot of smaller houses already doing this)

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  3. Really is sad, isn’t it? Google is pretty awesome though:)

  4. oh darn. i hope references to people who try to read the encyclopedia from A-Z don’t go away 🙂

  5. I don’t think we had Britannica, I think we had Comptons or something like that. I hated having to look things up in those musty old books. The only think that makes me a little sad is that it is the end of an era. Other than that, I am thrilled with the idea of having the world at my fingertips. 🙂

  6. Britannica got so many of us through high school and college. I loved the feel of those pages, to run my fingers on the embossed spines, to wander about and find random facts I didn’t need for a paper, only because I wanted to learn something new. It was my dream to own my own set, but alas we could not afford it … I could not even afford them for my own kids. But the library copies got all my attention, gave me a way to introduce my kids to the love of the library and I will always hold a special place in my heart for those amazing sets of knowledge 🙂

  7. I’m not certain whether our set was Britannica.

    We had two. The first, an Encyclopedia for Children. I decided I was going to read it from cover-to-cover after a very embarrassing incident in second grade. I made it to “C” before the call of the outdoors trumped hiding in the house forever.

    I used an adult set to establish my high school sweetheart’s religion. Raised by a near Mennonite mom, dating a *gasp* Catholic. Dad always asked where my dates went to church. My sweetheart’s last name shouted Catholic. So, I looked up Poland in the Encyclopedia. Poland, Religion–primarily Greek Orthodox Catholic with a small pocket of Baptists in the blahdy-blah region.

    Of course, I made him a Baptist. Better still! I had the written word in our Encyclopedia to back me up should Dad ever challenge me.

    Ah. Closing a door on an era. Bittersweet.

    • Ha! Research for dating! Awesome.
      I was raised in a pretty religious household, but my parents never went that far. They suggested it would be easier on me to marry in my faith. Luckily enough, I met a cute guy at KMart who happened to go to my church. We’re married with three kids now. He was my blue light special. What a bargain for a guy who can cook and clean! 🙂

  8. I loved the EB, and like you, it got me through high school and college. There wasn’t any other resource out there at the time that could compare. Even now, I cannot think of a better place to gather information that we know is accurate AND has beautiful pictures to boot.

    So much is going by the wayside. We are turning into an electronic age where people don’t need people to interact. Our lives are all interfaced with mechanical devices. Who wears a watch anymore when you can look at your iPhone? Why learn woodworking or any crafting skills when you can set a few buttons on a machine and let it do your work for you? What are we going to do when machines replace humans and the only humans necessary will be those smart enough to run the machines? (there’s a novel screaming to be born in that comment).

    We are a lost generation – the ones who believed in working both hard and smart. I can’t imagine a world where there are no tangible books. I have several books that are over 100 years old. I have a pocket Bible with a gold latch, printed in the early 1800s. It’s only about four inches tall by 2 inches deep. My husband found it in a box of trash. inside of it were still locks of hair, ribbons and pressed flowers. From the private notes, it was brought to the US by a 15 year old Irish girl in 1869, which means it traveled here by ship. This sent me scrambling to find what ships journeyed from Ireland to the US during that time period. Do you know how long that took? The perils they encountered? They didn’t have communications systems onboard like they do now. Ah, I think about it and excitement ripples through me. This book means so much, not because ifs a Bible (though that helps), but it’s an historical keepsake. You won’t get that feeling holding a kindle or a nook. eh, so what. It came from overseas. Duh. And the words on the screen…they’re just words. Gone are the ribbon placemarks, the suede covers, the musty, glorious smell of eras gone by. It is sad. Electronics don’t last forever but printed books have survived the test of time for thousands of years. I’m glad I won’t be around when they disappear entirely. That day will be a great loss to the entire world and mankind.

    then again, what would a robot need with a book?

  9. It is sad in some ways, but the writing was on the wall for a while. Amazing that E.B didn’t see the future instead of the past. They had a pre-eminant knowledge gathering and cataloguing structure set up and yet they didn’t translate to the Internet. They stuck with the old business model.
    It’s not the same for books though. No one ever popped a copy of the EB into their bags for a quick weekend read, but they do with books.

    I grew up with what must have been a 10 year old set of the EB. Often had my nose in it. Another book we had was a post-war bedsite reader called “Out and about with Undertakers” which contained the invaluable advice to always carry a metal false finger nail for prissing open the backs of black market watches to make sure they actually had a mechanism inside”

    You’d never get that on Wikipedia.