Sunday, March 16, 2008

But then I'm just an old f%$;#@

The ubiquitous encyclopedia is "well on its way to becoming the first casualty in the end of print."
The NY Times writes that Wikipedia and the Internets in general have eaten into the Encyclopedia Britannica to the point where there are no more door to door salesman (so it's not all bad) and it's all online, vetted and free at least in Germany. Bookhaus, Germany's largest multi-volume outfit hopes to generate revenue by selling ad space.
Damned if I know where it ended up, but my grandparents had a twenty odd volume of a Britannica knock off and I disappeared for hours with it every time I got over there. That kind of exploratory reading is just less likely to happen online when you're young, and if I'm wrong I'd love to hear it. I just don't think I am.
As for Wikipedia-like outfits,
"The superabundance of less-than-prized information on the site has led to a phenomenon called “wiki-groaning,” which involves comparing the length of seemingly disparate articles to humorous effect. Lightsaber Combat beats out Modern Warfare, for example, and John Locke, the character from the TV show “Lost,” edges out the other John Locke, whoever he was."

I have the sense sometimes that any country who wanted to take over America needn't do anything except sit back and let them be for another few years.

Posted by Dave


Chanda in The Disordered Cosmos said...

Much as I am horrified by the fact that my 16 year old sister says "jk" (which translates to "just kidding" from internet speak") out loud whenever she misspeaks, I also kind of wonder whether the well-educated/well-read minority is missing the fact that the rest of the world, previously starved of education and access to information, is now getting a piece, even if it may be incomplete.

How many people will now see at the top of the Wikipedia page that there is another John Locke entry and out of curiosity, click on the link? Maybe they never would have heard of John Locke (the real one) without that little link.

The p2p file-sharing phenomenon hasn't just touched movies and music. Books are being traded for free, vigorously. As an indy bookseller, you may not see this as a good thing economically. But! It does mean people still want to read, even people who live their lives out on the Internet.

I think what we are seeing is a popular push for access to information that was previously acquired through expensive tuition fees or access to a decent library. People are looking for textbooks, lecture notes, whatever they can find. So perhaps the hint is that those who are in possession of the complete knowledge need to participate more in getting information out there by affordable methods. PhDs in history should perhaps make it a project to systematically edit articles in Wikipedia. That way John Locke doesn't get lost in the mix. :)

As a humorous side note, you might be shocked by how many physicists use wikipedia as an equation reference!

Chanda in The Disordered Cosmos said...

Perhaps more simply put, maybe the NY Times would be better off quitting with the wiki-groaning in exchange for doing some informed wiki-editing :)

how to furnish a room said...

You're probably right about John Locke the minor getting a second life via Wikipedia, Chanda. I'm just not as sure that comes about in time to right the proverbial ship. Still there's not much point in pining for a world that's passing us by.

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