The Idea of Reference

Written by Sam Vaknin

There is no source of reference remotely as authoritative asrepparttar Encyclopaedia Britannica. There is no brand as venerable and as veteran as this mammoth labour of knowledge and ideas established in 1768. There is no better value for money. And, after a few sputters and bugs, it now comes in all shapes and sizes, including two CD-ROM versions (standard and deluxe) and an appealing and reader-friendly web site. So, why does it always appear to be onrepparttar 108517 brink of extinction?

The Britannica provides for an interesting study ofrepparttar 108518 changing fortunes (and formats) of vendors of reference. As late as a decade ago, it was still selling in a leather-imitation bound set of 32 volumes. As print encyclopaedias went, it was a daring innovator and a pioneer of hyperlinked-like textual design. It sported a subject index, a lexical part and an alphabetically arranged series of in-depth essays authored byrepparttar 108519 best in every field of human erudition.

Whenrepparttar 108520 CD-ROM erupted onrepparttar 108521 scene,repparttar 108522 Britannica mismanagedrepparttar 108523 transition. As late as 1997, it was still selling a sordid text-only compact disc which included a part ofrepparttar 108524 encyclopaedia. Only in 1998, didrepparttar 108525 Britannica switch to multimedia and added tables and graphs torepparttar 108526 CD. Video and sound were to make their appearance even later. This error in trend analysis leftrepparttar 108527 field wide open torepparttar 108528 likes of Encarta and Grolier. The Britannica failed to grasprepparttar 108529 irreversible shift from cumbersome print volumes to slender and freely searchable CD-ROMs. Reference was going digital andrepparttar 108530 Britannica's sales plummeted.

The Britannica was also late to cash onrepparttar 108531 web revolution - but, when it did, it became a world leader overnight. Its unbeatable brand was a decisive factor. A failed experiment with an annoying subscription model gave way to unrestricted access torepparttar 108532 full contents ofrepparttar 108533 Encyclopaedia and much more besides: specially commissioned articles, fora, an annotated internet guide, news in context, downloads and shopping. The site enjoys healthy traffic andrepparttar 108534 Britannica's CD-ROM interacts synergistically with its contents (through hyperlinks).

Yet, recently,repparttar 108535 Britannica had to fire hundreds of workers (in its web division) and a return to a pay-for-content model is contemplated. What went wrong again? Internet advertising did. The Britannica's revenue model was based on monetizing eyeballs, to use a faddish refrain. Whenrepparttar 108536 perpetuum mobile of "advertisers pay for content and users get it free" crumbled -repparttar 108537 Britannica found itself in familiar dire straits.

Is there a lesson to be learned from this arduous and convoluted tale? Are works of reference not self-supporting regardless ofrepparttar 108538 revenue model (subscription, ad-based, print, CD-ROM)? This might well berepparttar 108539 case.

A Brief History of the Book - Part I

Written by Sam Vaknin

One ofrepparttar first acts ofrepparttar 108516 French National Assembly in 1789 was to issue this declaration: "The free communication of thought and opinion is one ofrepparttar 108517 most precious rights of man; every citizen may therefore speak, write and print freely." UNESCO still defines "book" as "non-periodical printed publication of at least 49 pages excluding covers".

Yet, haverepparttar 108518 innovations ofrepparttar 108519 last five years transformedrepparttar 108520 concept of "book" irreversibly?

The now defunct BookTailor used to sell its book-customization software mainly to travel agents. Subscribers assembled their own, private edition tome from a library of electronic content. The emerging idiosyncratic anthology was either printed and bound on demand or packaged as an e-book.

Consider what this simple business model does to entrenched and age-old notions such as "original" and "copies", copyright, and book identifiers. Isrepparttar 108521 "original"repparttar 108522 final, user-customized book - or its sources? Should such one-copy print runs be eligible to unique identifiers (for instance, unique ISBN's)? Doesrepparttar 108523 user possess any rights inrepparttar 108524 final product, compiled by him? Dorepparttar 108525 copyrights ofrepparttar 108526 original authors still apply?

Members ofrepparttar 108527 community register their books in a central database, obtain a BCID (BookCrossing ID Number) and then giverepparttar 108528 book to someone, or simply leave it lying around to be found. The volume's successive owners provide BookCrossing with their coordinates. This innocuous model subvertsrepparttar 108529 legal concept of ownership and transformsrepparttar 108530 book from a passive, inert object into a catalyst of human interactions. In other words, it returnsrepparttar 108531 book to its origins: a dialog-provoking time capsule.

Their proponents protest that e-books are not merely an ephemeral rendition of their print predecessors - they are a new medium, an altogether different reading experience.

Consider these options: hyperlinks withinrepparttar 108532 e-book to Web content and reference tools; embedded instant shopping and ordering; divergent, user-interactive, decision driven plotlines; interaction with other e-books using Bluetooth or some other wireless standard; collaborative authoring, gaming and community activities; automatically or periodically updated content; multimedia capabilities; databases of bookmarks, records of reading habits, shopping habits, interaction with other readers, and plot-related decisions; automatic and embedded audio conversion and translation capabilities; full wireless piconetworking and scatternetworking capabilities; and more.

In an essay titled "The Processed Book", Joseph Esposito expounds on five important capabilities of e-books: as portals or front ends to other sources of information, as self-referencing texts, as platforms being "fingered" by other resources, as input processed by machines, and e-books serving as nodes in networks.

E-books, counter their opponents, have changed little beyond format and medium. Audio books are more revolutionary than e-books because they no longer use visual symbols. Considerrepparttar 108533 scrolling protocols - lateral and vertical. The papyrus,repparttar 108534 broadsheet newspaper, andrepparttar 108535 computer screen are three examples ofrepparttar 108536 vertical kind. The e-book,repparttar 108537 microfilm,repparttar 108538 vellum, andrepparttar 108539 print book are instances ofrepparttar 108540 lateral scroll. Nothing new here.

E-books are a throwback torepparttar 108541 days ofrepparttar 108542 papyrus. The text is placed on one side of a series of connected "leaves". Parchment, by comparison, was multi-paged, easily browseable, and printed on both sides ofrepparttar 108543 leaf. It led to a revolution in publishing and, ultimately, torepparttar 108544 print book. All these advances are now being reversed byrepparttar 108545 e-book, bemoanrepparttar 108546 antagonists.

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