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Are Print Encyclopedias Obsolete?

 
 
Reply Wed 26 Nov, 2008 05:15 am
I was surfing Refdesk. The highlighted a site of the Columbia Encyclopedia. When I was a kid, I had one of those. It is in one volume. Although it is not as prestigious as the Brittanica, it served me nicely through high school.

http://www.bartleby.com/65/

When I checked the site, I found that you could research many subjects found in the encyclopedia, online. So I thought about something. When I was a kid, most of my friends had an encyclopedia in the house. With the advent of the internet, is it necessary to spend the money, (and take up space) with an encyclopedia? I threw my encyclopedia out, a few years after I had gone online.

I am especially interested in the experiences of parents of students, although I would like input from people of all ages. Do YOU have an encyclopedia in the house, or do your kids do their research on the internet? Do you use an encyclopedia often?
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Type: Discussion • Score: 7 • Views: 11,141 • Replies: 20
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Wed 26 Nov, 2008 06:01 am
@Phoenix32890,
We had an encycloaedia at home (12 volumes). And when I was at school, I had an own (different to that of my parents) one (24 volumes as pocket book).

At university, I didn't need one since all the mayor encyclopaedias are in the library ..... dating back to their first publishing.

I'm subscribed to the Britannica - online version. And use some old versions (from pre-1900 back to 17th century) online as well.


The online versions (or those on CD/DVD) have certainly advantages against the print editions: they can be updated faster/earlier.

Comparing the price of my online Britannica to the print edition - I'm not really thaaat sure that online is cheaper since you get the supplements free of charge.

Print edition certainly have the advantage of more and/or better graphics, photos etc.
But since I either use encyclopaedias only for their historic content or as a quick guide for further reading - I can do with the online version(s).

But I don't think that they are obsolete - no printed word will ever be obsolete.
Phoenix32890
 
  1  
Reply Wed 26 Nov, 2008 06:09 am
@Walter Hinteler,
Walter- The thing that I have found, that if a person is able to separate the wheat from the chaff as far as websites are concerned, they can get just about what they want on the net in terms of reference.
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Wed 26 Nov, 2008 06:30 am
@Phoenix32890,
Quote:
The thing that I have found, that if a person is able to separate the wheat from the chaff as far as websites are concerned, they can get just about what they want on the net in terms of reference.

I think separating the wheat from the chaff is going to be the single most useful skill our kids can have in the Internet age.

0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Wed 26 Nov, 2008 07:26 am
@Phoenix32890,
Phoenix32890 wrote:
With the advent of the internet, is it necessary to spend the money, (and take up space) with an encyclopedia?

The answer, of couse, is yes. If encyclopedias are to be written and updated, their authors have to be paid. And the logical people to pay them are their readers. If the Columbia Encyclopedia can be online for you to free-ride on, it's only because enough people paid for its paper version in its first place. Encyclopedias can live without paper. But they can't live without their authors and their paying readers.

I don't see a problem for you though. I'm sure that as a disciple of Ayn Rand, you would never break John Galt's oath, " I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine."
Reyn
 
  1  
Reply Wed 26 Nov, 2008 09:55 am
@Phoenix32890,
Well, I don't disagree with what Thomas said a little further down, but the reality is that now information on a topic can be found in multiple places, and not just encyclopedia sites online.

We don't have a set at home, but we did have a used one when the kids were still home. I think encyclopedias can get out of date fairly fast, so depending on what you are looking up, there may be something new on the subject. Here is where the internet shines.

In a somewhat similar vein is the catalogue. Fewer businesses are now putting out print catalogues, and have replaced them with online versions.
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Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Wed 26 Nov, 2008 11:44 am
@Thomas,
Thomas wrote:
The answer, of couse, is yes. If encyclopedias are to be written and updated, their authors have to be paid. And the logical people to pay them are their readers. If the Columbia Encyclopedia can be online for you to free-ride on, it's only because enough people paid for its paper version in its first place. Encyclopedias can live without paper. But they can't live without their authors and their paying readers.


This would be true if there were only one business model for them: selling print encyclopedias. But that just isn't the case. They can charge for online access (Britannica), they can sell ads against their content, they can survive on grant and donations, and so on and so forth.

Print Encyclopedias are obsolete, they cost an enormous amount to print and every time they are printed they need updating. Even if the encyclopedia is not free there are advantages to digital mediums (audio and video, search...) and all major encyclopedias have moved to digital formats.
Green Witch
 
  1  
Reply Wed 26 Nov, 2008 11:56 am
Our local library does an annual book sale to raise funds. Last year they took in so many encyclopedias , dictionaries and thesauruses that after the sale it took two pick-ups three trips to bring them all to the town's recycle center. This year the library specifically asked that peoplejust bring those types of books directly to the dump. The endless parade of computer manuals is a similar story.
0 Replies
 
Phoenix32890
 
  1  
Reply Wed 26 Nov, 2008 03:54 pm
@Robert Gentel,
Quote:
Print Encyclopedias are obsolete, they cost an enormous amount to print and every time they are printed they need updating. Even if the encyclopedia is not free there are advantages to digital mediums (audio and video, search...) and all major encyclopedias have moved to digital formats.


I think that the digital media is far better for the environment than cutting down trees to produce print books. More and more you are seeing digital readers, where entire books can be downloaded. I think that this trend will only increase over time.
0 Replies
 
Phoenix32890
 
  1  
Reply Wed 26 Nov, 2008 04:09 pm
@Thomas,
Thomas-I think that Robert's explanation clearly illustrates that encyclopedia
publishers do not exist from selling print books alone.

As far as intimating that I am looking for "free-ride", if someone offers information for free, I see no problem with accepting the information. I pay plenty for programs and such that are not free that I download on my computer, and am happy to do so.
0 Replies
 
Mr Stillwater
 
  1  
Reply Thu 27 Nov, 2008 12:29 am
There is still plenty of room for print in the information market.

It has always been a problem that copying and piracy undercuts efforts to provide content solely as an electronic resource. One advantage of hard-copy for the seller is that there is a one-off transaction. Profits are realised at that point and it is very, very unlikely that some-one is going to take a print-dense volume to create copies as they can with a CD-ROM.

I think the real problem with encyclopaedias is that it is difficult to organise content to keep it up to date. Each article has to be written and checked prior to publication. preferably by a respected and knowledgable source. The Internet is not going to provide a real alternative as it is not vetted. Pulling a great deal of source data and assessing its value to a targetted audience is a bit beyond the young.

I don't, however, recommend just buying one for your home. Your school or public library would have a good range of these resources. It is also vital to get kids into information hubs to learn about finding and assessing information. Just cranking up the net and using Google is going to make them even more intellectually lazy than the Gen Xers.
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Sat 29 Nov, 2008 01:57 pm
@Mr Stillwater,
Mr Stillwater wrote:
The Internet is not going to provide a real alternative as it is not vetted.


The internet is a medium, not a source of information. Information on the internet can be vetted, or not. Just as in any other medium. Paper doesn't mean it's vetted, though printing costs versus digital publication costs means it's more often so. But saying that you can't trust the internet's information is like saying you can't trust the information from a phone.

You aren't getting information from the internet, or the phone, but from the person at the other end of the medium.
0 Replies
 
hawkeye10
 
  1  
Reply Sat 29 Nov, 2008 02:27 pm
the answer is yes. It is only a matter of time before online versions are as well, there is no way to sell information that is readily available for free online. Almost any information can be found from a credible online source and with search engines getting better this get easier. Also, tools such as wiki are credible enough for most purposes.
Woollcott
 
  1  
Reply Fri 5 Jun, 2009 05:59 pm
@Phoenix32890,
Your mention of the Columbia Encyclopedia brings back fond memories. The one I had was orange, with two 6" posts to hold it together. Frankly, it was better than most other encyclopedias which were, essentially, a group of 12 to 20 books. Yes, we still have it - although it is out of date re. geographical matters (new countries, etc.) and scientific discoveries. When I took graduate work, it was super! Each of our kids used it in turn. I think there is always an educational niche for smaller encyclopedias, such as the Columbia - but the huge expensive ones such as the World Book, etc. are not worth the price and shelf space. The on-line versions, such as Wikipedia, are far superior.
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Fri 5 Jun, 2009 09:48 pm
@Woollcott,
I liked encyclopedias, though I only looked at them in libraries, and not that often, preferring the card indices, and at university, wandering the stacks of the research library. Encyclopedias reminded me of my grammar school and essays we had to write, in fourth grade. (Mine was on coati, since I pulled out the book starting with C, and picked a page,.

I had a friend who wrote for Brittannica once in a while. But if he were now still alive and writing, he could write for them online, I trust.

I always appreciate real books, and I do hope they don't become artifacts of a former age - there is an immediacy with their paperness that is hard to displace, I say, even though the displacement is rampant.
0 Replies
 
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Sat 6 Jun, 2009 06:54 am
@Phoenix32890,
Phoenix32890 wrote:
Are Print Encyclopedias Obsolete?

Bottom line... Yes.
Nicole94707
 
  2  
Reply Tue 4 Aug, 2009 11:24 am
@rosborne979,
They are not totally obsolete. They are still handy to have in libraries. In academia, students and teachers not only have access to what's on the public internet but private databases as well.

Not only can one access primary and secondary sources but a creative researcher like myself can also talk to primary sources and interview them via e-mail. I did a study on whisltleblowers and corresponded with Jeffrey Wigand, the tobacco whistleblower, Sixty Minutes producer Lowell Bergman, and FBI agent, 9-11 whistleblower Colleen Rowley.
Nicole94707
 
  2  
Reply Tue 4 Aug, 2009 11:27 am
@hawkeye10,
No serious researcher relies on wikipedia. I assume nothing on wiki is reliable, but it is a useful place to start if one knows nothing about the topic to be researched.
0 Replies
 
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Tue 4 Aug, 2009 11:47 am
@Nicole94707,
Nicole94707 wrote:
They are not totally obsolete. They are still handy to have in libraries.

Only if the electronic version of the encyclopedia isn't available for some reason (power outage or something). Otherwise I can't see any advantage to having them in print rather than in data format. Most encyclopedias are now available in electronic format, and they can be updated far more frequently.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Tue 4 Aug, 2009 01:57 pm
@Phoenix32890,
Phoenix32890 wrote:
I was surfing Refdesk. The highlighted a site of the Columbia Encyclopedia. When I was a kid, I had one of those. It is in one volume. Although it is not as prestigious as the Brittanica, it served me nicely through high school.

http://www.bartleby.com/65/

Not even nine months after you, Phoenix, started this thread, your link is no more. The Columbia Encyclopedia has disappeared from Bartleby's site. So has the American Heritage Dictionary. In other news, the folks at Amazon went into their customers' Kindles, deleted copies of books that their publishers had changed their minds about publishing, and credited a rebate to their accounts.

Nothing like that ever happened to the paper books in my shelves. Could it be that paper isn't so obsolete after all?
0 Replies
 
 

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