Missing an old friend

We were reminded again that there is no longer a print version of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

To be sure, the knowledge is still available digitally (Britannica.com), but we think today’s youths are missing something by not having those hardbacked volumes to pore over.

Certainly, it was the most famous name in encyclopedias. A lot of families had a set of Britannicas, but it was always a pricey investment. The last 32-volume set was printed in 2010 and sold for $1,395. Salespeople used easy payment plans to make them available to average citizens.

But a major problem was that as the world changed, one’s set of Britannicas could quickly become outdated. Our family’s original set was printed before World War II — it was amazing how many countries had different names, different borders or simply ceased to exist when we tried to use them as reference volumes in the 1950s and 1960s.

We can only guess how many sets purchased pre-1990s were made completely useless when trying to research Eurasian countries after the breakup of the Soviet Union. Where did all those countries come from — where did the Soviet Union go?

But even with that risky shelf life, there was something magical about reading the reference articles and looking at the maps, charts and drawings in the encyclopedia. It was amazing how a night of research on, say, London, could lead one into reading a bunch of other articles in the same volume. You could have an “L” of a night with your Britannicas.

Time, though, marches on. Now, those once ubiquitous volumes have become a thing of the past. To some of us, it’s like saying goodbye to an old friend.

Granted, Britannica was an old friend we hadn’t seen in a while. But, we have lots of those.

(A version of this editorial has appeared previously in The Maui News.)

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.

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