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Remember Encyclopedias?

What ever happened to printed encyclopedias?

That is a question usually asked by older generations as many of the youth today have never really had a daily interaction with this printed media. Most people today are used to receiving information via their digital books or other paperless mediums that are better for the environment. We will look at a brief history of the once loved encyclopedias and were all the rage of yesteryear and how many people today rely on their various tablets and laptops.


Earlier this year, in March 2012, our beloved Encyclopedia Britannica made the inevitable announcement that many people were already predicting. They mentioned that they were going to discontinue printing out there book sets. Many people get nostalgic when they think about Encyclopedia Britannica and they are often reminded of trips to grandma and grandpa’s house where they had these books on the shelves. Unfortunately, this is as far as the thought goes because one look around their house will show that these books are nowhere to be found. If they don’t have them how can they expect their children to be well versed in looking for information in this matter?

While many were upset about this news, the president of the company quickly highlighted the simple fact that every company needs to evolve and they are going to evolve as well. For those that are still interested in gathering information via this medium, they can now access the digital versions. If many people have already successfully determined that printed newspapers and magazines will no longer be effective, it would be simple to assume that the Encyclopedia Britannica would follow the same route. On a related topic, when is the last time that you actually pulled out a map or at list to look for directions? There may be a few hard-core old-line traditionalists, but the average person will simply refer to the GPS that is either in their car or smart phone.

The paperless revolution has finally arrived! If you can imagine, the statements were really uttered in the mid-1980s with the invention of the fax machine. This machine was promoted to limit the excess paper that everyone used in their day-to-day personal and professional lives. However, many people use just as much if not more paper and it has taken 20+ years to slowly adapt to the electronic means.

Another thing to consider for the benefit of society is crowd sourcing. Crowd sourcing sites like Wikipedia has been a huge boon to anyone looking for up to date information. It is extremely difficult to imagine waiting for the new Britannica Encyclopedia to arrive so that you can absorb new information. Today, many people rely on sites like Wikipedia to retrieve information that is very current. If you were to make a comparison, Wikipedia today more than dwarfs all of the information that Britannica had compiled over the last 20 years.

In addition to being paperless, digital books, ebooks and other digital media has cut costs tremendously for many publishers. Long gone are the days of having to depend on manufacturing paper and destroying rain forests for public consumption. The digital age, while still in its infancy, will continue to mature and meet the demands of consumers that are always seeking to stay up to date with how they consume information.


Key words: digital books, ebooks, paperless