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View Full Version : End of an era, end of printed encyclopedias



justanengineer
03-20-2012, 11:32 PM
I just saw an article I thought some on here would be interested in. Apparently after 244 years of publishing, the Encyclopedia Brittanica will no longer be printed but rather be in digital format only.

http://money.cnn.com/2012/03/13/technology/encyclopedia-britannica-books/index.htm

aostling
03-21-2012, 12:11 AM
The demise of the Britannica is a symbolic loss, but it was inevitable. The 11th edition was the last really good one.

I found an almost complete 9th edition (1875-1889) in a garage sale when I lived in Texas in 1998. The bindings were hopelessly damaged; but all the maps were pristine. I excised these from the volumes, and still have the complete set, one each for every country in the world, and for each English county.

I later bought an 11th edition (1910-11) in black leather. This included many of the articles from the 9th edition without change. But I sold that on eBay ten years ago, and delivered it in a large box to the buyer at an arranged meeting place in San Francisco.

I still have Vol. XXII POL-REE from the 11th (an extra copy) in that black leather binding. I treated the leather and it is in fine condition, 976 pages of thin paper with articles almost too erudite for the non-specialist. I will not sell this book.

mike4
03-21-2012, 01:59 AM
DVD's or other digital methods of storage and retreival all require a steady and clean source of power . a paper book doesnt.

And for those that will say digital media can be updated quickly and cheaply .
I am old talking about reference material a lot of which doesnt change over a very long period of time .

I can pick up a book and find the relevant article / page far quicker than , starting up a windows based pc and then being told that the page cant be displayed due to a network error , not nice when you are making something and require a standard thread pitch or similar.

The digital gear will be ok for reading a novel if ever there is time.
Michael

John Stevenson
03-21-2012, 05:20 AM
Got a complete set in brilliant condition, don't know what edition as they are still in storage in the boxes we bought them in :(

Gotta stop buying books..........................sigh

Seriously need to go thru all these boxes and have a big cull, looking on some of the shelves the other month and didn't see some of my early motor cycle books like Tuning for Speed and the Velocette Story are two that come to mind. These must be in some of the boxes.

Next month we will be boxing up and getting rid of about 40 big boxes of books, two full pallets worth on Ebay, probably get 40 a pallet if lucky.

This is not an advert as they are just generic fiction books and real obscure non fiction, the dross from sorting out bulk buys. Ideal for jumble sales and fund raising.

Just need to get rid.

J Tiers
03-21-2012, 08:51 AM
The 11th edition was the last really good one.




+1

have the 11th and another much later 1950 or so one, plus a post-war one (1919 or so) that I don't know what to do with.

The 11th has very in-depth articles, the post war somewhat less-so but still decent, and the 1950s one is noticeably smaller, "thinned and lightened" in bulk and in content.

Eventually the E.B. became pretty much of a joke... I think someone bought out the name, and did a "Reader's digest" job on it.... capitalizing on the name, but having none of the content. The DVD version will be unreadable in a short while, which perhaps is for the best. I wouldn't have a later copy than the 1050 for a gift.... waste of space.

Yes, I have a lot of books.

SGW
03-21-2012, 10:34 AM
We can read 3,000-year-old books; can anybody read a 30-year-old 8" floppy disk anymore?

Nemesis
03-21-2012, 10:35 AM
The thing is with books when you are thumbing through looking for a particular item or subject you often stumble across things quite by accident. It may have no relevance to the subject you may be looking for but none the less a mental note gets made and it is remembered for a later date.

When accessing similar information on the web you go straight there, you miss the chance to stumble on the other information to add to the data base in the brain.

Nemesis

TGTool
03-21-2012, 11:29 AM
The thing is with books when you are thumbing through looking for a particular item or subject you often stumble across things quite by accident. It may have no relevance to the subject you may be looking for but none the less a mental note gets made and it is remembered for a later date.

When accessing similar information on the web you go straight there, you miss the chance to stumble on the other information to add to the data base in the brain.

Nemesis

Yes, I think that's a major point about books as a reference. Back in middle school if I didn't have homework during study periods I'd pick off a volume of the encyclopedia and just browse through articles. Amazing things I'd never have encountered otherwise. I mentioned this to siblings a couple years ago and nobody could imagine just looking in encyclopedias for fun. Must be the weird end of the family I guess.

Evan
03-21-2012, 02:22 PM
When accessing similar information on the web you go straight there, you miss the chance to stumble on the other information to add to the data base in the brain.

I wish that were true. I end up with 40 or 50 windows open. Then I save them as sessions in Chrome so I can later open all 20 pages at once and generate several more session of stuff to try to get around to reading later. It's ten times worse than my old paper encyclopedias. The only reason I crack the EB anymore is to see if I can find the page I hid that $20 in. Still haven't found it.

loply
03-21-2012, 05:16 PM
I wish that were true. I end up with 40 or 50 windows open. Then I save them as sessions in Chrome so I can later open all 20 pages at once and generate several more session of stuff to try to get around to reading later. It's ten times worse than my old paper encyclopedias. The only reason I crack the EB anymore is to see if I can find the page I hid that $20 in. Still haven't found it.

Couldn't agree more! I often go to view a YouTube video for some specific purpose, and 30 minutes later find myself on my 10th irrelevant video and I can't remember how I got there!

Whilst it's true that digital media may become inaccessible to future generations, it's equally true that books disintegrate in due time and are more readily discarded because of the physical space they consume.

There are pros and cons to both, but I can understand why digital is winning at the moment, I just hope we see more "long lasting" digital storage solutions becoming available.

loose nut
03-21-2012, 07:12 PM
Most books printed in the 20TH century have a life of about 100 years, then they start to crumble. This is a big headache for libraries and other institutions that store large numbers of books. Books that were not printed in large numbers are in danger of disappearing along with the knowledge they contain.

Digitizing may be the only recourse to save the info they contain, reprinting all these old books would be to expensive to be practical.

Like it or not we will have to move out of the 19TH century

Forestgnome
03-21-2012, 07:23 PM
I wish that were true. I end up with 40 or 50 windows open. Then I save them as sessions in Chrome so I can later open all 20 pages at once and generate several more session of stuff to try to get around to reading later. It's ten times worse than my old paper encyclopedias. The only reason I crack the EB anymore is to see if I can find the page I hid that $20 in. Still haven't found it.
You should put it under "M" for money. You have to think about it for a split second, so that eliminates most people being able to find it.

wierdscience
03-21-2012, 07:54 PM
We can read 3,000-year-old books; can anybody read a 30-year-old 8" floppy disk anymore?

Good point!Also with the digital format history can now be revised daily.

Evan
03-22-2012, 04:22 AM
History has always been written by the victors.

There are plenty of ways to archive digital media in a more permanent form, including on paper.

I happen to like this one:

http://ollydbg.de/Paperbak/

Lew Hartswick
03-22-2012, 08:34 AM
History has always been written by the victors.

There are plenty of ways to archive digital media in a more permanent form, including on paper.

I happen to like this one:

http://ollydbg.de/Paperbak/
Evan, Have you actually done this? The top of the linked page says
something about a "joke". It sounds like a winner for a lot of things.
...Lew...

nitsuj
03-22-2012, 09:45 AM
I guess I'm going to be the one with the unpopular opinion here. I think it's a good idea, and should have been done years ago. A set of encyclopedias is huge, expensive, and uses a ton of resources to produce and transport. And let's face it, they're not that widely read anymore. Most sets I'm aware of sit on shelves for years with no one peaking inside. When anyone of the current generation needs information, they dont buy $1300 set of books, and they don't head to the library to crack a book that was published in 1911, full of 100 year old information that may not even be valid anymore. They sit on their couch and hit google. I don't see how Britanica had much choice really. Even if you don't like the idea, you have to admit, it was the smart thing to do from Britanica's standpoint. Keep spending the money to produce a book that's less and less read just to satisfy some need for nostalgia, or move into the 21st century and store information the way the rest of the world does?

I know, you can't read a computer when the power goes out, or the network goes down. Maybe I've just been fortunate, but in my short 37 years, electricity has always been available to me. There have been a few short outages due to storms or what not, but during those times, I had more important things to worry about that looking up the mating habits of the spotted owl.

And yes, you can access information from a 30 year old disc. But chances are, if that information was important, it wasn't kept on an 8" floppy, it was moved to newer media as the technology became available.

Nemesis
03-22-2012, 11:57 AM
I for one think that the passing of the Encyclopaedia was inevitable, but books have something that the internet does not have and that is longevity, manuscripts have survived for thousands of years. Some of the manuscripts produced are in themselves an art form and will never ever be matched by what can appear on the computer screen.

Some information stored electronically has already become inaccessible as the pace of change has accelerated, Beta-max, VHS and CD/DVD to mention one trend. Yes I know you can transfer all this info, but at what cost to the pocket and to the environment.

I well remember whilst working at the forefront of CD manufacture, (30 years ago now), being told that the Vinyl record would be obsolete, but people still seek those out today, why? if the CD or MP3 is so much better.

One thing, given my slide rule I can still work out quite complex maths even at my tender age of 60, provided I have some oil in the lamp or a candle.

Nemesis.

Evan
03-22-2012, 12:12 PM
Evan, Have you actually done this?

Yes, it works. For decent data density you need a 2400 dpi true resolution scanner and you have to have a good hi res printer too with good paper. The main thing about this program is that it is open source. The software and the algorithm can always be ported to whatever is current and there will always be optical imaging available. Just print the source code on a sheet to go along with the archive.

Mike Nash
03-22-2012, 04:59 PM
Paper books are good. When society collapses around us, those with the most books stay warmest the longest. Oh yeah, and let's hope the ones that "off" themselves 5 minutes afterwards have lots of paper books! :D

Also oh yeah, if you value a book or magazine, don't use toilet paper to bookmark.

loose nut
03-22-2012, 06:30 PM
books have something that the internet does not have and that is longevity, manuscripts have survived for thousands of years.

.

Old books yes, modern books no. You won't find any books that are printed on modern acid bearing paper in 150 years let alone thousands and the number of old surviving books isn't that great compared to the number of books printed in the last 100 years.

Digital archiving is a necessity, if all that knowledge isn't going to be lost. Like it or not digital books are hear to stay.

Black_Moons
03-22-2012, 08:02 PM
I well remember whilst working at the forefront of CD manufacture, (30 years ago now), being told that the Vinyl record would be obsolete, but people still seek those out today, why? if the CD or MP3 is so much better.

Nemesis.

For the same reason that (m)any of us here would pay DAMN good money to buy a rotted out, rusted, barley running model T ford. A weird sense of nostalgia.

I was not even alive back then and have only seen them in pictures, and some similar counterparts in pictures. I would still likely trade my really nice truck for a model T with bad suspension, Poor acceleration (20hp!), poor as my truck gas mileage, Only 2 speed gearbox, unable to maintain the speed limit on steep hills, etc. ... Oh, and upon reading more about it.. I found this crazy tidbit:


"The Model T's transmission was controlled with three foot pedals and a lever that was mounted to the road side of the driver's seat. The throttle was controlled with a lever on the steering wheel.

The left pedal was used to engage the gear. With the handbrake in either the mid position or fully forward and the pedal pressed and held forward the car entered low gear. When held in an intermediate position the car was in neutral, a state that could also be achieved by pulling the floor-mounted lever to an upright position. If the lever was pushed forward and the driver took his foot off the left pedal, the Model T entered high gear, but only when the handbrake lever was fully forward." - Wikipedia

.. Maybe it is just a bad description but.. I can honestly say after reading that, I still have no clue how to operate a model T ford.

Evan
03-22-2012, 09:43 PM
The T transmission uses a planetary transmission with band brakes on two of the moving elements. By engaging or disengaging the bands in various combinations it is able to reverse and also select 2 different ratios. It was a very rugged transmission since gears did not be engaged or disengaged.

Bill736
03-22-2012, 10:28 PM
I too buy and keep old books, including five or six sets of encyclopedias , some small and some large. My sets only go back as far as circa 1900, but it's amazing how " history" changes with the year of the book. A good example is to read an encyclopedia article on Germany written in, say,1930, and an article on Germany written post WWII . The post war articles are so full of hate for Germany that there's little in common with the 1930 articles . Nowdays, of course, all new articles on any subject must be politically correct and gender neutral . Can you say B.S. ?

J. Randall
03-22-2012, 10:55 PM
The thing is with books when you are thumbing through looking for a particular item or subject you often stumble across things quite by accident. It may have no relevance to the subject you may be looking for but none the less a mental note gets made and it is remembered for a later date.

When accessing similar information on the web you go straight there, you miss the chance to stumble on the other information to add to the data base in the brain.

Nemesis

I totally disagree, I have pages of bookmarks on this computer that I have stumbled across while looking for specific items.
James

JRouche
03-23-2012, 02:45 AM
Ok, Ill chime in.

I LOVE books. Dont know why? I love digital media also.

I was a poor student in grade school. Had poor grades and the teachers were fine with that. They could focus their limited time with the kids that were excelling. I liked it that the teacher didnt hound me for straying to what? YUP, the encyclopedias. This was in the 70s and for at least three grades (4-6) I was a D student because I couldnt do the syllabus that they were provided.

So I read the encyclopedias for three years. Front to back and back to front.

I cant spell or work out simple math but I DO have a simple grasp on many subjects now.

Would I change my habits now? Nope!!

I saw this in the news, EB going out of print. I looked at the cost for the latest set. Bout 900 bucks. I wanted to buy the set for my two kids. I think they would gravitate towards it IF we said causal internet time was cut off.

And Im not saying for actual research papers its cut off. The internet WAS created for research. They haven't become lazier with the internet but I think more productive and efficient.

Im talking about their down time when they are just cruising the web (like I do).

Id rather have them cruising the books, like a set of EBs.. They get way off track when idling along on the internet. YES!! They can get side tracked from what they were reading on the books but they get easily sidetracked when they are on the web.

HELL!! You ALL know. Its SO easy to stray from your original path when tromping around on the internet.

Thats fine for US adults. Kids I think need to learn focus and learn to stick with an interesting story VS what the internet provides which is a dabble in a section of interest then they see something (a link) and they go to the link.

Books dont have an immediate gratifying "link".

Dont get me wrong but the instant gratifying feeling that you get when finding the info you want instead of putting some work into the research is a problem.

Oh, my highly educated wife thinks its a bad move and they wont use the books. Shes prolly right :(((( Oh well. Not gonna happen. Im prolly the only one in the house that wants them so I wont do it.

Not a prob!! We have a great library and Im sure they DO have the books. So guess what kids? YUP!! I love libraries. We will be taking more trips to the Library..... And thats prolly a good thing anyway... JR

Evan
03-23-2012, 04:29 AM
I think they would gravitate towards it IF we said causal internet time was cut off.

Just let them know there are some $20s hidden here and there.

Peter N
03-23-2012, 04:49 AM
I have the 15th edition, had it since new in the early/mid 70's when parents bought it for me and my brother.
30 volumes in total, one Propaedia, 10 Micropaedia, and 19 Macropaedia.

Son is at University now, but always used to reference it for old information when he was in High School, and Daughter (still in High School) was using it just yesterday to check some WWII and post WWII information.

It's nice to have around and still very useful for anything pre-1975

Nemesis
03-23-2012, 04:34 PM
Is not the failure of the Modern book to last due to the paper used, a prime example of the use of the Modern Technology of the day. We know 150 years later that this technology was flawed because the books do not last, or did someone back then have an insight into the arrival of the Internet and knew the books had a finite life.

As regards Longevity it was used in the context of the EB, if one takes the Internet it has been widely available since the mid 1990's according to Wikipedia.
We have on the one hand 244 years for the EB as opposed to 17 for the Internet, equate the EB's life to one year then the internet is just 25 days old.

I am not out to knock the Internet which is how some appear to have taken it, I am of the opinion that a book has something more to offer that is all. By all means save all the information you can, but is it going to be safe in this format, what is to say 150 years down the road that this Technology was flawed to?

Nemesis

sasquatch
03-23-2012, 06:03 PM
I have a number of old books, and still buy them up as i find them if it is of interest to me. Mostly mechanical stuff, and backwoods country living stuff, lots of valuable info in them if it is needed.

Fun once in awhile to just sit down with old tool or hardware catalogs , and browse through them looking at what was available for the times.

loose nut
03-23-2012, 08:11 PM
Is not the failure of the Modern book to last due to the paper used, a prime example of the use of the Modern Technology of the day.

Yes it is BUT it is that "flawed" process that allows us to be able to afford the books we want. Acid free paper is more expensive, at least for everyday book binding and not that common. The "old" books that many quote as examples of the way to store data were more likely to be printed/written on velum or linen until fairly recently.

oldtiffie
03-23-2012, 09:28 PM
I would not expect too long a life from any/most books in a domestic enviroment which in many respects is far less a standard than the preservation standards of museums and archives.

Evan
03-23-2012, 09:42 PM
The problem of acid free paper has mostly vanished. Most plain bond paper is now acid free because of changes to make it easier to recycle. Bond paper used to be filled with white clays but that is very difficult to recycle. Paper is now filled with carbonate compounds, mostly calcium carbonate. That neutralizes any trace of acid. The carbonates dissolve in acetic acid which makes it trivial to recycle, unlike silica mud. Current bond papers will last hundreds of years and more if protected from excess humidity and hungry fungi. Black laser printer ink will last about forever since the colourant is carbon black and in some cases magnetite/ferrite powder as well.

oldtiffie
03-23-2012, 09:56 PM
I can't argue with that Evan but I guess it won't apply to "older books" - encycopedias and the like very much included.