Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Too much paper, too many trees

from w
At last they did it! Decided to stop printing Encyclopaedia Britannica using paper. Realizing that the way to go these days is on-line, this humungous set of books will be no longer printed and updated. Thank goodness. Too much information. When we were children we did use such sets of books (though my Dad's set of encyclopaedias was modest, very Anglo, and small) but really who wants to know everything about everything. Wikipaedia isn't perfect and googling a topic comes up with some nonsense at times but we can distriminate surely.

Now newly built libraries do not have to be huge places at all if information can be small enough to be on discs or computers be set up instead of stacks. Okay? What do you think? It's not as if holding a volume of an encyclopaedia is going to be comfortable in bed to read in order to put you to sleep!

At the Geelong Donation in Kind depot where Peceli and I go most Tuesday or Wednesday mornings to sort and box books into Baxter boxes to send on to schools in the South Pacific etc. we dump most sets of encyclopaedias before 1980 to turn into cardboard.We are given lots and lots of such sets. I dislike packing them up as the print is small, the information barely relevant to children in the highlands of Papua New Guinea etc, though some of our volunteers like them and want us to pack them. I don't.

from a website;

But what will librarians do with all that shelf space?

By Benjamin Reeves:
March 14, 2012 12:44 PM EDT

The Encyclopaedia Britannica, for nearly a quarter of a millenium the English-speaking world's singular authority on virtually all disciplines, will no longer publish a paper edition as one of the most revered icons of the pre-digital world morphs into so many gigabytes.

Actually, it's already morphed.

Encyclopaedia Britannica launched its digital edition for LexisNexis and its first multimedia CD in 1989. The Web version of the encyclopeadia came out in 1994. But all that time it kept coming out in paper. Its most recent edition, the 2010 version, was 32 volumes long and weighed 129 lbs.

It's been an amazing, 244-year run. The encyclopaedia was first published in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1768. In 1902 it became a U.S. company, and today Swiss financier Jacob Safra owns the Chicago-based publisher, Britannica Inc. Throughout the 20th century it was sold door to door. Because the encyclopaedia was so expensive, many families bought it in installments, a few volumes at a time.

Its most recent paper edition, the 2010 version, cost $1,395, according to the New York Times, and only sold 8,000 units. In fact, there are 4,000 remaining sets still in a warehouse. Contrast that with 1990 when 120,000 sets were sold in the United States alone.

"In spite of our long history with print, I would like to point out that no single medium, neither books nor bits, is at the core of our mission. That mission is to be a reliable, up-to-date, and scholarly source of knowledge and learning for the general public," Jorge Cauz, president of Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc., wrote.

While sales of the printed encyclopaedia have faltered recently, Britannica's online branch has burgeoned to over 100 million users between the core Web site and the company's educational sites and apps. Britannica charges a $70 annual fee for an online subscription.

"I guess it would be the end of an era if they were actually going to stop publishing it, but so long as they keep updating it ... that's fine by me," said Jeffrey Douglas, Librarian of the College at Knox College.

"I definitely feel a certain nostalgia. It's one of those moments when you have to pause and say to the world is really changing," Denise Hibay, Head of Collection Development at the New York Public library said of Britannica's move to digital only publication.

However, paper versions of reference books do have advantages in terms of ease of visual scanning and comfort. "There's a level of comfort when you have a large set and can page through it," Archer said.
and also:

Lynne Kobayashi of the Language, Literature & History section of the Hawaii State Library notes some people will always prefer using print sources, but that readers are becoming attuned to online searching because of a proliferation of electronic publishing.

"There are many advantages to online searching, chief among them the ability to search within the text," Kobayashi said. "The major disadvantage is the need for a computer or devices with access to the Internet."

Kobayashi said her decision to use traditional or online resources depends on the question she wants answered.

"Sometimes subject knowledge and familiarity with standard resources may get faster results than keying in a search and sifting through results," she said. "If the search is broader, searching across several online sources may yield more options."

Britannica has thousands of experts' contributors from around the world, including Nobel laureates and world leaders such as former President Bill Clinton and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. It also has a staff of more than 100 editors.

"To me, the most important message is that the printed edition was not what made Britannica," Cauz said. "The most important thing about Britannica is that Britannica is relevant and vibrant because it brings scholarly knowledge to an editorial process to as many knowledge seekers as possible."

Kobayashi said as information professionals, librarians see an important part of their role as directing patrons to trustworthy information sources.

"While Wikipedia has become ubiquitous, the Britannica remains a consistently more reliable source," she said.



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