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The Purpose of Encyclopedia Britannica Online… Does it Have one?

April 6, 2012

 

Britannica_Micropedia

Ugh! Where's Volume #2? They NEVER have the one I'm looking for!(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We literary types are supposed to be nostalgic about Encyclopedia Britannica discontinuing its printed editions, but those crusty old books might not be worth the emotion.  They were never really that practical.  They were too heavy to be light reading, but not detailed or current enough to be helpful in school.  The first thing teachers used to say before any research assignment was, “Don’t just copy something out of the encyclopedia.” 

So, of course, the stupid kids non-literary types would copy something out of the encyclopedia and get an F (unless they had the overly sensitive English teacher who felt sorry for the stupid kids non-literary types and would give them a C for at least copying something). 

The smart kids would drive (or have their parents drive them) to the city library, spend hours digging and squinting through the microfiche, and then get infuriated at the misleading titles to articles that never had the information we thought they would have.  Finally, we just made up all the statistics, used the article titles in our bibliography anyway, and prayed that our teachers didn’t have private collections of periodicals in their homes. 

It was a time consuming strategy, but it worked.  

The point is that the encyclopedia was worthless for any academic projects, and we certainly didn’t read them for enjoyment, so what was their purpose?  Going online seems to make perfect sense, but again, what is the encyclopedia’s purpose? 

The problem with Encyclopedia Britannica online is that the name “Encyclopedia Britannica” is too long for stupid kids non-literary types to find it (yeah, it’s probably ironic that a blog called Dysfunctional Literacy would criticize somebody else’s long name).  It’s easier for stupid kids to get on Google and then get distracted by the porn sites they accidentally stumble upon.  The stupid kids still get F’s, but the research is way more fun. 

The good students will still have to go elsewhere because Encyclopedia Britannica online (or “britannica.com”), while updated more frequently than ever, won’t be an acceptable source for most English teachers.  The good news is that students don’t have to drive to the city library anymore to find other online resources. The bad news is that now it’s easier for teachers to find out if you’ve made up your own statistics. 

If the online version of Encyclopedia Britannica is even more useless to students than the printed version of Encyclopedia Britannica was, then the online “britannica.com,” while kind of cool, might still be kind of pointless.

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