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Lauren Ashburn

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Loss of a Wordly Friend

Posted: 03/14/2012 12:13 pm

Call me old-fashioned, but I am waxing nostalgic for one of my first loves: Encyclopaedia Britannica. After publishing 244 years worth of page-turning picturesque presentations, its print run is over.

Brittanica is joining other roadkill on the Internet superhighway crushed by the torrent of free information. It simply couldn't compete with the online, crowd-sourcing Wikipedia brought to us -- for free -- by the collective efforts of thousands of people.

Funny that an early-adopting, tech-savvy journalist is missing an old-fashioned set of numbered books. It is not lost on me that by running toward cool technology and free Web content, I contributed to the demise of a beloved friend. Ouch.

I felt a similar twinge of sadness walking through Barnes and Noble's blowout going-out-of business sale last year at its flagship store next to New York's Penn Station. I bought half a dozen books and then checked my iPad -- which is also chock full of books -- for directions to my hotel.

The presence of a full set of these encyclopedias, resting on a shelf in a family room, comforted those like me who needed to know how to draw a butter churn or write about what happened to the Aztecs at Tenochtitlan. Many couldn't afford Britannica -- the Cadillac version -- and had to rely on pale imitations like Funk & Wagnalls sold at grocery stores.

It's those memories from childhood that flood over me, pulling me back to a simpler time when I played outside for hours and my BlackBerry and ThinkPad and iPad hadn't overtaken my life. Because I'm not a "digital native" and didn't grow up using the verb "google," I have a tendency yearn for a less complicated, simpler, slower world. Until I need information. And then hook me up, and fast.

I thought about getting a set maybe for my kids, until I realized the last printing from 2010, 129 pounds and 32 volumes long, can be had for $1,395 -- and is already outdated. While I'm nostalgic, I'm not that nostalgic.

Long live Brittanica.com

This post can also be found at: www.daily-download.com

 

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