Magical Realism, Writing, Fiction, Politics, Haiku, Books

miércoles, marzo 14, 2012

Good Bye Britannica

The New York Times has the news:

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.”

"Some people will feel sad about it, and nostalgic about it." Yes. I must be one of those. But how could I be surprised? I haven't seen a set of Britannica or opened a single book in decades. But the loss isn't really about the object. It's the authority that comes with being physically printed and beautifully bound. It's the authority that comes presumably from having zillions of scrupulous editors. Somehow, even if all of that continues, putting it on the web just doesn't have the same gravitas.

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