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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

That Ship Has Sailed

Today is a sad day for me.  And it's a sad day for anyone who ever used the Encyclopedia Britannica to write a term paper.  Or to look up general information about bugs.  Or the solar system.  Or food groups.

After 214 years, the Encyclopedia Britannia is moving entirely into the digital age.  Yes, it's true.  Starting today, an online subscription can be had for just $70 annually.  Updates will automatic.

I have to tell you that I think this is sad.  And not because it doesn't make sense, because it does.  But rather, it makes me sad because there was something special about having those volumes lining the shelf in our family room.  Just holding one of those books made me feel as though all the knowledge I would ever need was right there in my hands.  The encyclopedia made everything accessible.

In my family, we had not only Encyclopedia Britannica, purchased from a door to door salesman, but also a set of World Book Encyclopedias, a gift to my sisters and I from Grandma Mary and Grandpa Mike.  Both sets held positions of prominence in our family room.

Ted remembers his set of encyclopedias as well.  In fact, in his family there were two sets of Encyclopedia Britannica; a deluxe set in white leather downstairs in the family room, and a red leather-look student edition up in his bedroom.  Ted had knowledge, quite literally, at his finger tips.

Of course, these days there's far more information available with one push of a button than there could ever be in any one printed volume.  I know that.  But the way I see it, the end of the printed Encyclopedia Britannia is the end of an era.  The leather bound volumes harken back to a time when we were all a just little more innocent.  Those books, with the fancy gilt edging, held the answers to all of life's greatest questions.  Everything I ever needed to know could be found on the shelf in the family where the Encyclopedia Britannica was proudly on display.

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