« Home | the token: & i feel that » | lost ones » | new books » | not without laughter » | the face of illegal immigration » | the last king of scotland » | tropicália » | spread love, it's the brooklyn way... » | the anniversary » | the rejection thread (update) »

in memory of encyclopedia

obviousy, i love books. this is for the aristocracy of all books. if amiri baraka can write in memory of radio, i can write in memory of the encyclopedia.

true story time: as a kid, we had 3 sets of encyclopedia. i used to read through them, obviously not cover to cover, but just sit there and read articles. i loved those books: hard, textured leather covers, small text on perfect sheets of paper, distinctive coloring bands, their absolute order, their codified history.

encyclopedia's helped me develop my first sense of history. chocolate, buffalo, the west indies, christmas: i read all kinds of articles about things that interested me, and the fact that there was a distinguish book that bound all this info together made it seem seamless, and important. there was a wonderful finality about the encyclopedia.

and then: a new year brought a new additions to the encyclopedia. what a wonderful time to put things in perspective, to decide what from the previous year or years would be important to us moving forward into the next year, and whatever that might bring to us. the encyclopedia - it was fact incarnate.

and then: encarta. encarta killed the encyclopedia. microsoft encarta, that cd rom program that contained all of the information some shelves full of lovely encyclopedia books contained. that cd rom that took up so little space, and could easily be carried with you, and so brilliantly pointed up all of the flaws of the encyclopedia sets. those sets of encyclopedias to which i had become so attached.

these are some of the encyclopedia's flaws: there is nothing liberté égalité fraternité about the set of bound encyclopedias. either you have the money to buy a set, and keep buying sets if you value staying informed, or you do not. and of course, the old adage that history is written by the victors is perhaps never so true anywhere as in the encyclopedia - it being so intimidating, so expensive, its utter sense of finality, leaves no room for the non-victors to have a say. there was little rival to the encyclopedia. to be honest, i never really thought of the encyclopedia as such as status symbol. it really was. i loved the encyclopedia for its big words, obscure topics, and neat packets of information. because it made me feel like there was a lot to learn, not that because it made me feel important. there was a lot to learn, but the fact remained that there were only so many volumes to a set. you could, actually, read it all. and come to a point where you had mastered one year of history.

encarta: after awhile, you could even get encarta online, and that had oodles of brand spanking new information. i'll go out on a limb and say that with encarta, history was being written literally as it was being written. so there was no selectivity, no time for review, no time for perspective on what was actually important and what turned out to be not so important. in the long run. there was no more long run. there was only a short sprint to be the first to get the latest info into the hand of the masses.

more info is available to more people. wikipedia anyone? another true story: i often find myself reading wikipedia in the same way i used to read the encyclopedia as a kid. when i hear of a news event, i often look up the related topics on wikipedia, and all the details are already there. no waiting. no new editions. no shelf space, not even a cd rom this time around. so democratic, few filters...just a glut of information, so much informatin, still taking me to the place where i want to know more and more and more...but sometimes it's overwhelming. with the encyclopedia, i kinda felt like i could actually conquer it. all of it. with all wikipedia, i know i can't. i read it though. i turn to it daily.

but with wikipedia, i don't get to feel the contrast between textured leather covers and smooth pages between my busy, itchy, knowledge hungry fingers.

thanks to my good friend brandi for making me think deeply about the demise of the encyclopedia.

Labels: , ,

i love wikipedia!! and i love learning!!

Hey! The comment about sitting down and reading through article after article in your encyclopedia really stuck with me - I used to do the same thing when I was growing up!

Post a Comment

About me

  • I'm call me aja
  • From nyc
  • 20something, black, woman, reader, writer, about to be a student again. i think i'd like to be heard (or read). child/grandchild of immigrant folk. yearning to travel. desirous of wisdom. a little bit ordinary, but working at being less so.
My profile