The End Of Encyclopedia Britannica In Print

CNN Money reported that the Encyclopedia Britannica’s 2010 edition will be their last print version. Only the online subscription version will remain. I suppose this will increase the value of print editions for collectors.
As I wrote some time ago, I’ve never been a fan of encyclopedias. We wouldn’t allow them in the house while our children were growing up and we don’t have a general purpose encyclopedia now. The nearest thing we have to a general purpose encyclopedia is the eight volume Encyclopedia of Philosophy. I do consulted Wikipedia from time to time but I don’t take what I read in it all that seriously. Such tools, if properly written and properly used can direct one to important primary and secondary sources. Beyond that, if one wants to know about something, one should read at least two recent books and a couple of papers on the subject. Stay away from the encyclopedia. It might fool one into thinking that one now knows something. Will reading a couple of books and a few papers make one knowledgeable? Not real likely. But at least one will begin to see something of the scope of one’s ignorance and that’s the first step in learning.
Am I happy to see the print version of the Encyclopedia Britannica go? No, I’m indifferent to it. But I do believe that if one is going to make proper use of such a tool, one should avoid the $70.00 fee and consult Wikipedia.
Via Boing Boing

2 thoughts on “The End Of Encyclopedia Britannica In Print”

  1. I love encyclopedias growing up. As soon as I could read, I was already opening my parents’ encyclopedia and reading up on dinosaurs and planets. I was 5 or 6 at the time and I often ask my older brothers to help me read hard words. It has served me well and I have done pretty well in school up till college, where I’d read encyclopedias to supplement, and in a few cases replace, my textbooks.
    I have not opened an encyclopedia since college (except Wikipedia). I read books and journals voraciously now but I will never be a snob to say that encyclopedias are not worth reading or consulting, especially in areas where I am not professionally trained for.
    Encyclopedias were my gateway drug into the library of human knowledge. I would like to teach my kids to enjoy it too.

  2. Dan,
    It you are accusing me of being a snob about this, mea culpa mea maxima culpa. That said, I’m not as dogmatic about this as my post may have indicated. Our no encyclopedia approach seemed to work well for our family – two children, two tenured PhDs teaching in research institutions. It sounds like you handled and grew from your youthful encyclopedia use well. Not everyone has. I’ve met far too many people who believed that knowledge of almost anything can be condensed into a single paragraph unless it is really complicated and then up to two pages might be required. I suppose more than just using encyclopedias may be the cause of this but using encyclopedias sure didn’t help.

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