Before Google, before the Internet, the Britannicas were our first stop (even before the library) for gathering information for school reports and for looking up things we needed to know. But their real joy came from the serendipity they allowed. They opened up the world! All you had to do was turn the page.
On a rainy Sunday afternoon, bored out of your gourd, you could sit down on the dining room floor, lug one of those great, heavy books off the shelf and into your lap, and leaf through it, stopping at whatever looked interesting.
But no longer. It was announced on Tuesday that Encyclopedia Britannica has stopped publishing a print edition. When the current stock runs out, it's done. They will continue to publish digital versions--which have, indeed, been the bulk of their sales for the last several years. This ends a long tradition, beginning in Scotland in 1768.
And of course I understand that. Encyclopedias are big and heavy, they take up a lot of room, they grow dusty and outdated, they are expensive to replace. Each volume can only be used by one person at a time. ("Hey, who has 'Freon to Holderlin'?")
Digital encyclopedias are more efficient in every way--you can scan, you can search, you can click immediately to whatever it is you're looking for.
But efficiency, I think, is overrated.
In this age of targeted, surgical searches, we are missing so much! Without card catalogs in libraries, there's no more leafing through those narrow wooden drawers, flipping from manila card to manila card, stumbling across things that you didn't know existed. Without neighborhood bookstores, how do you browse the tables and discover new titles, new authors? Amazon is no replacement for that.
God, I loved card catalogs. They were one of the best things about working in a library. I loved the neat wooden drawers, and the brass drawer pulls, and since part of my job was typing up new cards for new acquisitions, I learned how to undo the brass pole that ran through the bottom of the drawer, holding all the cards in place, and then slip it back in place after I'd added the new listings. I felt capable and proud and in-the-know. It was a big responsibility--one card out of order and a book could be lost forever!--and I took it very seriously.
And now you can find those cunning little drawers, those lovely wooden cabinets, in antique stores and junk shops. They aren't good for much else; they were so specific in their design.
A digital encyclopedia will tell me everything I need to know--as long as I know what I'm looking for. But on a rainy Sunday afternoon, who knows what that might be? I'm looking to be captivated, caught by surprise, transported. And I don't think Wikipedia can give me that.
Meanwhile, Riley is Riley. Moody. Playful. Fun or skittish, nervous or sleeping. I think he'll be OK. I think he is OK. (Doug thinks he's always been like this and we're just paying more attention now.)
We agree with the comments you left on the last post, and we think a puppy is a good idea. We need to wait until we can take some time off work to be with a new dog--and that probably won't be until summer. Until then, we'll just hope Riley doesn't crack. (I don't think he will.)
This weekend, friends are coming from out of town and bringing their chocolate Lab with them. Riley has a love-hate relationship with Bigsby ("Let's play!" "Get away from my minder!" "Let's play!" "Get off my couch!") and if nothing else at least he'll get worn out.