I read in the paper today that after 244 years, the print version of the Encyclopaedia Britannica has officially ceased publication. The 32-volume set of the 2010 edition sold for $1,395. In 1768, the first edition was only three volumes, and by 1990 US sales had grown to 120,000, declining since then due to the emergence of the Internet.
Not to worry, the company’s digital version, which began in 1981, is being updated daily on the Britannica.com website – vetted by experts, not open to any yahoo who cares to change things, like Wikipedia.org. Britannica is now focusing on digital learning products and website subscriptions.
I remember visiting Grandma Brady in Buffalo, NY, when I was a little girl. She had a complete set of the Book of Knowledge, which was really old even back then. This encyclopedia was quite different than the ones organized alphabetically. Each book was a different subject, such as:
• The Earth
• Science • Animal Life
• Plant Life
• United States
• Other Countries
• Fine Arts
• Golden Deeds
• Men and Women
• Things to Make and Things to Do
The first thing I did after kissing Grandma was to make a beeline for the Book of Knowledge. I could sit quietly and read all afternoon.
Then I grew up. And CD-ROMs were invented, which could hold an entire set of encyclopedias on a single disc.
In 1991, during National Library Week, the Texaco Library used the old “free food” trick to lure us into the library each afternoon. Hey, it worked. So I went up there and they showed me their new toy while I was munching on chocolate chip cookies. It was a CD-ROM. I was amazed!
At the time, I was also a Technical Editor for SPE Papers, critiquing them and selecting which ones would be published in SPE journals. And in the middle of a cookie, a light bulb flashed on in my brain! What if we could put SPE Papers on a CD-ROM? We could search by topic or keyword and find them and print them out – wouldn’t that be great?!
So I called up SPE Headquarters and suggested we put SPE Papers on a CD-ROM. “What’s a CD-ROM?” they asked.
It took me about 18 months to convince the SPE staff and Board to do it, at which point they assigned a committee to the project — which slowed me right down. After another 18 months of convincing the committee, we published the first SPE MasterDisc, a searchable CD-ROM index of all 25,000 SPE Papers published to date. We followed that with the SPE eLibrary, which later added technical papers from a dozen other societies in our industry and morphed into OnePetro.org. Anybody with an Internet connection can now search for, find, buy, and print out all 100,000+ SPE papers.
Wow, how far we have come in the digital age! We have taken huge volumes of knowledge and made them searchable and accessible all over the world with digital technology. And with a Kindle or iPad, you can still curl up quietly at Grandma’s house and read to your heart’s content.
Profound Quote of the Day:
“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”
– Albert Einstein, German physicist, 1879-1955