News / USA

Encyclopedias Survive by Going Online

The door-to-door encyclopedia salesman is obsolete, but his product isn't

Not all sets of encyclopedias are this worn, but even newer editions are out of date for the millions who look online for reference material.
Not all sets of encyclopedias are this worn, but even newer editions are out of date for the millions who look online for reference material.

Multimedia

Audio
Ted Landphair

The other day, a few of us here at VOA got to talking about occupations that have grown obsolete, or nearly so, in these fast-changing times.  Typewriter repair technician for one.  And typist, come to think of it.

And here’s one that’s going, going but not quite gone: reference-book publisher.



Shelves on offices across America are still packed with sets of encyclopedias and thick individual books about geography, history, law, science, and the origin and use of words.

But most of them haven’t been cracked open in months or years.  They have become historical artifacts - part of the office décor.

The key word in this message is “free.” The easy, often free, availability of online material has rendered many printed reference works obsolete.
The key word in this message is “free.” The easy, often free, availability of online material has rendered many printed reference works obsolete.

It’s not because their users have grown lazy, or because the books’ contents are any less valuable.  As you might guess, it’s because their information is available in a flash in hundreds or even thousands of places online.  

If you want to find out about honeycombs, for instance, you’re not limited to a trusty encyclopedia article, perhaps written 20 years ago.  On the Worldwide Web, you can electronically access as much about honeycombs as you feel like reading. Or watching.

Fewer than half the sets of expensive, specialized encyclopedias are being sold today than were 10 years ago.  But this hasn’t put reference-book publishers out of business. They’re making up for lost revenue by selling subscriptions to the electronic version of their works to libraries, universities, hospitals, and law offices around the world. The online encyclopedias are regularly updated and offer visual treats not found in the paper edition.  

Their publishers, or perhaps we should say “content creators,” have little choice if they want to stay in business.  At least they’re saving big bucks at their book warehouses, and sparing lots of trees as well.

You May Like

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid