Friday, March 16, 2012
Rule Britannica: Frank Lloyd Wright and Darwin Martin Make Their Case; Colbert's Handy Desk Set of Wikipedia; and the Encyclopedia Britannica Goes Digital
Darwin D. Martin had a fastidious mind with an appetite for factoids. Long before one could "Google" such information, Martin relied on his Eleventh edition set of Encyclopedia Britannica. He was known to take a volume with him for some "light" reading on the way to work, and to quiz family members at dinner, with the encyclopedia providing the definitive answers. Martin's architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, designed a custom bookcase for his beloved Britannica, including a larger slot at the bottom for the index. Both the encyclopedia set and stand have returned to the library of the Martin House after years of storage and conservation.
And, as of this week, it seems that Martin's beloved set will be even more of a collector's item: Britannica announced that it will discontinue its hard-copy editions in favor of all-digital publication.
Devotees of handsome hardcover sets of encyclopedia will cry foul, but Britannica is simply trying to keep up with the online behemoth Wikipedia. Britannica President Jorge Cauz discussed the publisher's strategy and its competition with NPR's Robert Siegel.
In an inversion of this print-to-digital trend, Stephen Colbert recently played the Luddite by showing off a phonebook-sized volume of his printed version of Wikipedia (Star Trek, Yeoman Rand through Yeoman Smith, B).
How would Darwin Martin or Frank Lloyd Wright have reacted to the digitization of encyclopedic information? I don't know - look it up.