The Browser, Encyclopedias, and the World

The internet. It's wonderful and terrible, thrilling and terrifying. It is certainly addictive. But one thing it's supposed to be good for, is browsing.

I mean, that's the whole problem, isn't it? That you end up browsing rather than reading, ready to jump off in the middle of anything to something else.

Except: Chestnut was thinking about her Hanukkah (forget the spelling on that one is what I think) list, and she said that what she really wanted was an Encyclopedia.

Well, we sort of said, You can use your dad's access to the Encyclopedia Britannica's web site (he gets it as part of being a professor), or you can look on Wikip—.

No, she said. Not online. I want one that's paper. I want to, you know, just look through it.

I completely understand what she means. It's the whole Book of Lists, Guinness Book of World Records vibe she's going for: she wants to come across things unexpectedly. Of her own volition. It's fun to page through an encyclopedia (no really, it is!). And it's not the same having random things flash up on a web site. You're not browsing then, their design is. How can you wander when you're not the one doing the wandering?

If you go to the Encyclopedia Britannica kids site, it says "Browse Arts, Religion, Geography…." But if they're giving you options of what to browse, it's not exactly browsing. It's looking, which is different.

I had to tell her that I think they don't make paper encyclopedias anymore. I am not so sure that's even true—there is a 2003 edition on Amazon for $650. There is ye olde one-volume Columbia Encyclopedia from 2000. But..nothing newer.

Which I understand, I really do. I mean, the encyclopedia makers have to be realistic, don't they?

Well don't they?

But it sort of kills me. It's this very specfic weird, kid activity that will vanish, and it makes me blue.

7 thoughts on “The Browser, Encyclopedias, and the World

  1. This makes me crazy too. We had the 1979 World Book encyclopedia sitting near the TV, and whenever TV got boring or ads came on, my brother and I would read the encyclopedia, and quiz each other on its contents. (I remember a quiz from the F volume that included “What was the population of Finland in 1979?” and “How many species of frogs are there?”…..) It’s just not fair that this opportunity is not really available to the kids. I feel the same way about dictionaries—at least they still make those. I keep our family dictionary in the kitchen with the cookbooks, and it gets consulted at dinnertime at least once a month.

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  2. If you aren’t too concerned with outdated information, I see not too ancient editions ALL the time at thrift stores, for almost no money. Great for browsing through, maybe not so great for school projects.

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  3. Oh, they have print Encyclopedias. They sell them to libraries. Why don’t you check your local library book sale. They usually sell the old editions when they get a new one. So this will only happen every few years, but it does happen.

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  4. I will bet you dollars to doughnuts that’s the NYPL book sale, and maybe the BPL, has old World Books every year– big library systems like yours and mine update their Print World Books annually. Libraries also get people coming in *all the time* trying to unload their old paper encyclopedias- our system won’t take them, even for the book sale. I bet you could get one for cheap on eBay.

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