Encyclopaedia Britannica goes out of print

I was going to write a supportive blog about Quebec’s resistance against the crime bill that the government has tried to ram down the province’s gullets, but I’m afraid of being put on some terrorist watch list along with the environmentalists and being tracked down by Mr. Toews. Instead, I will write about an equally timely (if more mundane) topic…

Encyclopædia Britannica is going out of print and will soon be available only in its on-line version. I haven’t even seriously thought about print encylopædias since the late 1990s and the last time I used one was around 2002. While they may become collectible items a few years down the line from now, I certainly won’t miss them.

Unless one is without the use of a computer, I can’t see much need beyond sentimentality for print encyclopædias. But though I’m no bibliophile, I’d hate to see the printed word disappear. Encyclopædias and dictionaries become out-of-date. They are reference books that are meant to be consulted, not consumed in a strictly linear fashion, as their structure affords. Meanwhile, I can see the practical appeal of e-book readers but they’re not for me. I’m not a book-binding-glue-sniffer. In fact, I’m one of those people who is taken aback when opening a library book and finding a surprise alligator piece of oily food squished between the pages, let alone an intentional onion.

Sure, e-books may be more utilitarian — which I think is just fine for a reference book — but they lack a certain book-y experience. At least for now, they seem more like meat grown in a petri dish: more efficient in many ways, but equally unpalatable. I will not shed a tear for EB, but please, leave my print books be.

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