A to Zero

paper boatChicago-based institution, Encyclopedia Britannica, will stop publishing books; from now on the encyclopedia will be all-digital.

I like the Internet as much as anyone -- I like it too much, perhaps, at least judging by the time I spend online when I might be doing other, more productive things.

Jorge Cauz, Encyclopedia Britannica's president, is quoted in the Chicago Tribune as saying, "We're not looking at this as a nostalgic, sad moment.... It just makes sense, the same way that it made sense to go from three volumes to 10 volumes to 32 volumes. It just makes sense for us to take full advantage of the new technology."

But I lament the demise of another set of research books.

There is no search engine yet devised that can match the Mark One Eyeball for picking out things that one might not have been looking for initially -- but which prove to be more relevant to the true objective of the search.

In other words, search arguments miss lots of stuff.

And you can't... wander... on the web the way you can wander in an encyclopedia or digest. Oh, you can jump to another page. You can push the "next blog" button at the top of this page. zebra drawingYou can go to the next new entry in your Google Reader. I run down a list of bookmarked pages in Firefox or visit links in my sidebar.

But research books are different. Research has shown that people read a book more thoroughly than a screen. I don't know if the research has taken Nooks or Kindles or other devices expressly designed for reading into account -- but I wouldn't be surprisedif researchers find no significant improvement in concentration or comprehension if and when they do.

I understand that an encyclopedia volume can become obsolete while it is still in galleys. Science and technology move so fast these days. But I wish there was a way to save the printed page.

Isn't that a silly thing to say online?


Curmudgeon is a self-described dinosaur -- an Ozzie and Harriet person living in an Ozzy and Sharon world. And sometimes it confuses the heck out of him. He writes a very amusing blog at Second Effort.

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