Thursday, March 15, 2012

O brave new world...


Here is some sad, though predictable, news:
After 244 years, the Encyclopaedia Britannica is going out of print.

Those coolly authoritative, gold-lettered sets of 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, the company is expected to announce on Wednesday.

In a nod to the realities of the digital age — and, in particular, the competition from the hugely popular Wikipedia — Encyclopaedia Britannica will focus primarily on its online encyclopedias and educational curriculum for schools, company executives said.

The last edition of the encyclopedia will be the 2010 edition, a 32-volume set that weighs in at 129 pounds and includes new entries on global warming and the Human Genome Project.
Learning of the demise of the Britannica made me recall the many hours that I spent perusing its pages in my high school library, years before the Internet made paper-bound encyclopedias obsolete and initiated a gradual transition from academic libraries to high-tech "learning commons" (Saint Joseph's University opened one of these just this week, and I'll admit that it's an impressive structure).

Having completed all of my papers in high school and college with the aid of no search engine more advanced than a card catalogue and paperbound periodical indexes, I still find it a little unusual that most of my current students have probably never used a card catalogue and have almost certainly done most of their academic research online. Call me a Luddite, but I also can't help but shudder at the fact that generations to come will probably be able to complete all their schooling without ever laying eyes on anything like the Encyclopaedia Britannica. O brave new world, that has such people in it! AMDG.

2 Comments:

At 3/19/2012 4:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Koczera,

My gnashing of teeth and rending of mine garments ended when I saw that wikipedia, whose 1800 Britannica- sized volumes I carry on my pinkie-sized USB stick, but not the Britannica, has an entry for Thomas Mulvihill King SJ and others who meant much to me. For it is mostly good.

J-A.

 
At 3/19/2012 8:34 PM, Blogger Joe Koczera, S.J. said...

J-A,

Yes, Wikipedia has its virtues - and, in a larger way, I'll admit that the Internet has given me instant access to information on a much broader range of topics than I ever could have hoped to obtain in my high school library.

I may jokingly describe myself as a "Luddite," and I genuinely love books, but I will admit that the information age has brought a great deal of good.

 

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