In the 1950s, having the Encyclopaedia Britannica on the bookshelf was akin to a station wagon in the garage or a black-and-white Zenith in the den, a possession coveted for its usefulness and as a goalpost for an aspirational middle class. Buying a set was often a financial stretch, and many families had to pay for it in monthly installments.
This is sad, even though I understand all the reasoning and good that will come from pouring energy into the online and educational resources. But gosh, I used to LOVE spending hours reading our encyclopedia (circa 1996) and accidentally learning about alphabetically-similar places, ideas, tools, and people to what I was intending to look up. That stumble-upon method of learning is continuing to be lost on the dusty shelves of libraries in lieu of curated, search-by-keyword internet sites.
Although what I think I feel is sad, it’s probably more so nostalgia. We should embrace the exciting opportunity to have greater access to up-to-date resources at lower cost rather than wanting something that certainly was incredible for 244 years but perhaps is becoming too outdated for this increasingly fast-changing world.
Here’s to the next era of Britannica.
Source: The New York Times