I’m still trying to figure out what I think of Encyclopedia Britannica’s decision to convert entirely to an online web subscription. It would make updating entries more timely. But it could encourage less information because of the nature of the internet.
I grew up with an encyclopedia. My father bought the World Book Encyclopedia and the accompanying Childcraft series and dictionaries. It was like having a library in our house!
The books were different than they look today. The covers were black and functional, with gold lettering identifying the volume. The M volume was enormous — always heavy when I dragged it out and spirited it off to my bedroom like buried treasure.
I didn’t have a desk, so I sprawled out on my bed with the different volumes. Sometimes with a cat on the end of the bed, giving me cat eye slits for bouncing around and disturbing her nap.
And inside, oh, the pictures and illustrations. One of my favorite books was the bright green Childcraft book “Stories and Fables.” Some stories I read once, and I was done with it. Others … there was a magic in them that pulled me back to revisit them.
The “About Animals” volume gave me information and pictures about cats. We had three, and I prowled the photos of the breeds to identify what they were. One was a silver tabby, and I always had to look for that picture first because it was my cat. Those books were read so much they ended up with pages bent, food spilled on them, and pages stuck together. Well-used.
I still go back to World Book Encyclopedia at my library for the first resource on a topic for my writing projects. One of the best parts of flipping through the pages is spotting another topic I needed. Encyclopedias have the magic of discovery the internet doesn’t have.
What do you think about the changes to Encyclopedia Britannica? Do you think the conversion to digital only is a good thing? What do you think will be the next change?