You’re a dinosaur writer if you can remember:
- Writing your first draft on a pad with a pencil.
- Pulling out a dictionary to check spelling.
- Typing and retyping your entire book manuscript on a manual typewriter.
- Accumulating a big box of tapes to hold your tape-recorded interviews.
- Endless hours researching in the library.
- The card catalogue and the Reader’s Guide to Periodic Literature.
- Sending meticulously typed proposals by snail mail.
- When there was no such word as snail-mail.
- Being sent on an all-expenses-paid book tour by a publisher.
Times do change. I have done my best to pass these milestones with equanimity and am even managing to adjust to e-books and on-line printing. But the news I got today was the final straw: the Encyclopedia Britannica will no longer publish print editions. That’s right. This bastion of everything you could ever hope to know will soon be only digital. After more than 200 years, those stately volumes through which we loved to thumb will no longer be.
And little wonder. The Britannica’s best year was 1990 when 120,000 copies sold. But in the next six years, the number fell to 40,000. Today, the online versions serve more than 100 million people all around the world. So it’s good business to move on, though it still doesn’t make me feel better.
I like change. I embrace it. But change can go too far. Which is why I checked the Encyclopedia Britannica’s website to see if I can still get a set. The good news is that I can. The bad news is that the final hardcover set would set me back $1,394.
Hmmmm…. Never mind. My nostalgia seems to have faded.
“We are tomorrow’s past.”
Mary Webb, Scottish writer