So, yes, the EB became kind of laughable with its clumsy marketing efforts and awkward efforts to adapt to modern technology in the past couple of decades, but be kind to its memory. It was one of the great attempts in all history to try to do what many dream of doing today through the internet and the advantages of the digital age: limited by the resources of that day, for sure, but an amazing achievement nonetheless. There is something special that has died here and, if only for old time's sake, we can mourn its passing.
Actually the original goal wasn't to capture the world's knowledge, it was to spread the enlightenment idea that man could learn about the world through reason. If anything deciding that they would be better off just generically capturing knowledge is what killed them.
The same could be said about all those that are currently struggling with the changing times, from journalism, the music industry to democracy itself.
I have an encyclopedia that's now 120 (or so) at home and I don't read it anymore because I'm too affraid to damage it. It's sad because it's gold mine of stereotypes and good words on blacks and gays.
I think your point regarding "checkpoints" is more interesting but still falls moot because Wikipedia uses versionning. If you really cared that much about digital data you would do what you are doing with your book: keeping it.
As I said, digital data has the potential to exist forever. Digital data is independent from the media. A media is mostly cheap and disposable.
> Now, if you think that every book with stereotypes should be discarded, that's sad.
I certainly didn't mean that (cf. "gold mine").
> We have the responsibility to preserve history, and the moral duty to challenge what we consider wrong with our reason.
My point exactly. Which is why my comment invited the op to get a data dump and archive it properly. We all know that paper is sensible and would be careful for storage. We need to build and apply a similar set of precautions to store our digital data.
> To wipe it off, that's censorship and a recurrent disease of totalitarian mindsets.
> We all know that paper is sensible (...)
"My point exactly".
On another forum I follow, someone has spent weeks trying to piece together data from a single 880KB Amiga formatted floppy from 20 years ago...
The reality is that we are notoriously bad at safeguarding digital data. Tons of data has no real backups.
The potential doesn't help us when it doesn't match reality.
That's burned CD/DVDs. Pressed ones from the 1980s usually still work. Some early production runs had problems with the aluminum layer not being properly sealed and oxidizing, but they definitely have the potential to last many decades if Not centuries.
I think it is sad the EB is stopping presses. I think they should continue, if only they could find a way to print it in a way the would reduce its cost considerably. Acquisitive cost, more than anything, is what is killing them.
I would think that many thousands of people are doing this every single day right now.
archive.org probably keeps almost a monthly archive on every wikipedia article that has ever existed.
Not a single document from his gmail archive or dropbox folder was lost.
If I want to keep something safe, paper definitely isn't my preferred medium.
But, just as I was sad to hear that Kodak is filing for bankruptcy, this is more due to nostalgia. Businesses need to keep moving with the times and the way people consume products and services in these fast changing modern times.
Unfortunately for Encyclopedia Britannica they do not have enough income unlike the Hollywood lobbyists to pay the protection money.
I suspect it won't take them very long to sell those copies after this announcement.
Is their society going to be digging through the buried remains of silicon valley and saying "their civilization seemed to disappear when they started mass producing these 3.5" and 2.5" boxes containing sheets of metal.
It seems far fetched, but when all our data is digital, how long before we have a "burning of the library of Alexandria" moment. Thankfully all the companies ripping wikipedia articles and serving them with adverts are actually helping avoid a moment like this. Multiple-redundancy is likely the only method to prevent huge amounts of information from being lost.
On that note, this is probably the best general discussion I've seen of archiving our digital data:
My thesis is in Dropbox, and I emailed it to my GMail address. Both companies seem likely to faithfully back up my thesis for the indefinite future, because it would literally be more effort for them not to back it up. I also have it on a USB drive somewhere, but I forgot where I put it. Incidentally, I also made a printed copy, but I have no idea where it is.
Microsoft proceeded to trounce the print Encyclopedia business by creating a better product that severely undercut the traditional players.
Here we are, 2012, finally Britannica is dead. That took longer than expected.
I read in a book ("Blown to Bits") that one of the reasons why Brittanica flopped was because the sales people did not understand what they were selling. They thought that what they were selling was knowledge.
But most of the customers bought the books to assuage parental guilt, that they were doing enough by their children. Once the computer came around people stopped buying encyclopedia's so that "Johnny would do well in school," and bought computers instead.
Encyclopedia Brittanica did end up becoming a victim of changing technology, but in the short term at least, not in the direct way as is assumed.
I was extremely amazed how entire encyclopedia full of content with pictures, sounds and charts that I could most likely never read from start to end can fit into one single disc of a palm size.
History goes on... can you actually imagine in next 250 years what will replace Wikipedia? Imagine this: "After 250 years, Wikipedia shuts down its remaining servers due to lack of traffic".
According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Funk_%26_Wagnalls , Microsoft licensed Funk and Wagnalls.
Licensing opportunity, perhaps?
The book model was far better.
Software doesn't need to be printed in 32 large, luxurious volumes and sold by a cadre of door-to-door salesmen.
The quick way to find out is - if they could make a good profit selling the entire set for $x where $x < $current, would they still be doing it? The answer is yes.
The reason the price used to work and doesn't now is that digital equivilents are not only (subjectively) better/easier/etc. - they're also cheaper.
So yeah, EB would be useful as well.
The articles are well written, and if covering pre-20th century history, literature, or other topics, should still be excellent introductions.
I personally believe that EB had a place in the world. For example, I'd happily pay a few thousand Euro's/$/Pounds for "the complete, historical Encyclopaedia Britannica" that contains every single release of EB back to the beginning. The context of historical discovery that would provide would be amazing.
Of course, it'd have to be digital.
(Disclaimer: I collect old dictionaries for the same reason: culture context as things change over the decades..)
You just won't be able to get them on Amazon, for 4-figures.
Seems like this should have taken place ten years ago or more.
On a related note, according to Wikipedia (!): "Microsoft had originally approached Encyclopædia Britannica, the gold standard of encyclopedias for over a century, in the 1980s, but it declined, believing its print media sales would be hurt; however, the Benton Foundation was forced to sell Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. at below book value in 1996 when the print sales could no longer compete with Encarta..."
The fact that their printed volumes account for a negligible amount of their revenue shows that this wasn't even a spur of the moment decision, they saw the writing on the wall a long time ago and planned accordingly.
How do we know they're even going to make money now?
They weren't avoiding reality. It looks like they've planned this years ago, but kept printing encyclopaedias while they were still profitable.
Let's say after the year 2015, demand for non-tablets will begin to reduce by 50% per year. Does that mean companies should stop making non-tablets in the year 2015? For some, maybe. What if several competitors has already exited the market (as had happened here), should you exit too? If your competitors left that means although while the pie has gotten smaller, you're getting a larger slice of it. Stay while it's profitable.
My affection for physical objects like books and CDs (and I have acquired a LOT of them) has become increasingly anachronistic, even just over the last five years.
I say there is no way more "carbon" is used shipping a few thousand books than powering the entire internet.
The future is clearly http://www.britannica.com
In an age,
* where the Internet can be seen on ever increasing number of diverse devices
* where every day people discover that every additional layer of software complexity adds security vulnerabilities
* where the default installation of even many existing heavily used browsers, for both personal and business, have everything except html and stylesheets disabled, especially for new sites
* where some/many people may wish to choose to use your site in its most bare form possible, including command line users
you choose to ignore all of these usage scenarios by not even having a graceful fallback for your site?
Thankfully, most web administrators and developers are not as short-sighted as you, even most start-ups!
One more thing: if a new site, even one that has been heavilty recommended to me, does not provide even basic information without scripting or has a horrible front-page with a default NoScript Firefox installation, I treat it as I would a spam site and I immediately desist from using the site and ignore the link.
You will not waste my time with lack of basic Web competence and awareness.
I think people disabling JS for security should be willing to accept the downfalls.
"where the default installation of even many existing heavily used browsers, for both personal and business, have everything except html and stylesheets disabled, especially for new sites"
I don't know what you're talking about here. I've never seen a default install of any browser (on a desktop) except IE in Windows server have JS off by default
"where some/many people may wish to choose to use your site in its most bare form possible, including command line users"
I will grant command line users should be accommodated where they will be expected to be a large proportion of your users (linux install instructions, for example) otherwise, give me a break. Why should I take my time working for .01% of users using a command line.
Now, I don't think this means that people should be using JS when it's not necessary, like if your page is mostly text. But all of the use cases you cite are a small minority of the users of most sites.
Of course we still want and need curated collections of information. But I fail to see the value of large collections of information that say a tiny bit about everything. I think the real value comes from knowledgable experts curating information about their niche. Which in my experience is not at all what traditional encyclopedias were (I'm 24).
11 years after the web ate their expensive lunch meetings, they still don't get the web.
They have interesting robots.txt, though:
I would recommend them to hire a web designer.
Huh, I just pulled up five articles at random and they all had edit buttons. Granted, it doesn't let you edit the main article, but you can create your own version of one or send a suggestion/correction to the editor.
/me raises his hand
Yeah, that idea is only nice to ponder, not to implement. I had a 32 volume set of Funk & Wagnalls Encyclopedia ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Funk_%26_Wagnalls ). They are so heavy! Every time I moved ... the horror ... I'm glad I donated all of them.
It has the Atlas and the dedicated bookcase.
For anything up until the 20th century (e.g. the ancient and medieval worlds), it was probably as good as or better than the current edition - something has to be cut to cover Steve Jobs, the Space Shuttle and the George's Bush.
I will probably find myself another set, but I don't care if it is particularly recent. I can always use Wikipedia if I want to study Pokemon.
We've talked about picking up an encyclopedia before... this kicked it into existence.