Following a 200 year reign at the top of the reference pile, the Encyclopaedia Britannica is set to close its doors and stop its printing presses forever. KitGuru ponders if Internet really did kill the Reference Star.
In a sadly out of touch statement, Jorge Cauz, president of Encyclopaedia Britannica, told reporters, “This has nothing to do with Wikipedia or Google”. Oh dear. Next week, Mr Lost Cauz seems to have no knowledge of Mr Effect.
Roll the clock back 1,000 years and the monks made hay from the fact that they could read and write, while the masses huddled around the pews to receive whatever wisdom the shaven ones decided to doll out. More recently, say over the past 100 years, media moguls have controlled the messaging – ensuring that the ‘cool stuff to know’ was found in the advertising vehicles they call newspapers.
Enter the world of the web and everything changes. Knowledge and access to information become more of a right than a privilege and no one has to set up 52-week payment plans just to get the benefit of ‘Things that begin with the letter Z’ [For younger readers, encyclopaedia salesmen used to call door to door, selling a volume of knowledge at a time for a fixed weekly price – Ed].
Not only is a reference book out of date from the moment it’s printed, they are also slow to use, cumbersome to carry and hard to cut and paste (in a non-destructive way).
At its death, Britannica was a 32-volume set and we can expect a sales swan song as, no doubt, the management decide to cash in on the lost Cauz and issue a ‘Final ever, get yours now, never coming back, if you’re a museum or library then this is it’ version.
Back in 2009, hopeless Cauz, president of Britannica, said that the encyclopedia was not trying to rival Wikipedia and would remain a “different type of animal”. Sure. The kind of animal you normally find seared in a sesame seed bun – surrounded by special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onions.
KitGuru says: Wonder if Google and Wikipedia will change their home pages to black for this special passing of a leg-end?
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