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Wikipedia or Encyclopedia?

The demise of the print version of The Encyclopedia Brittanica after 244 years of publication is something of a milestone in publishing history. I enjoyed reading the old issues with their retrospective insights into a past world. The joy of seeing how things were perceived and understood fifty or sixty years ago is informative, fun and curiously satisfying. There is a sense of knowledge being marked in time and of young minds being introduced to the wider world in a relatively compact and concise form. The contemporary online equivalent Wikipedia is nowhere near as reliable. Some might argue that its provisional nature and status is a virtue. It is also much wider, more inclusive and open to anyone to write. It is easier to reach and despite its unreliability a potentially useful starting place. The problem is that it may not by its nature be able to move from potentially useful to an established epistemological position unlike those old dusty books. Wikipedia needs more reliable online competitors.

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