The Know-It-All

Cover of "The Know-It-All: One Man's Humb...
Cover via Amazon

Before he spent a year following every single rule in the Bible, and before he used his life as an experimentA. J. Jacobs read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica from A to Z and wrote about his experiences in The Know-It All. This is a feat not likely to be repeat since the Encyclopedia Britannica has ceased to print actual copies of the encyclopedia.

The Know-It-All is not a book about the Encyclopedia. Rather, it is the story of the experiences of a man who decides to read the Encyclopedia. Jacobs often refers to the facts he learns, usually in the context of something related to his life experiences, or some odd fact he did not know before.

The Know-It-All is an interesting and funny peek into the life of a man who wants to make himself smarter. By his account, Jacobs turns into something of an annoying know-it-all by spouting off trivia at any occasion. Reading the encyclopedia is probably not the best way to try to know it all, Still Jacobs found that the more facts he learned, the more he began to see the connections between seemingly disparate subjects. and in the end he managed to obtain a bit of wisdom to go along with all of those facts.

Encyclopedia Britannica No Longer Printed

I read the story by USA Today a couple of days ago. The Encyclopedia Britannica will no longer be available in printed form but they will be continuing their online version. To be honest, I’m surprised they have been printing them this long.

After 244 years and more than 7 million printed sets, the company is announcing today that it will no longer publish a print edition. The last, 32-volume print version, published in 2010, weighs 129 pounds and sells for $1,395.

Only 12,000 sets of the final edition were printed, company President Jorge Cauz says, and 4,000 remain in its inventory.

In an increasingly digital world where the online Encyclopaedia Britannica — which is much larger than the printed version — is updated every 20 minutes, Cauz says, publishing on paper no longer makes sense.

This is the end of an era. When I was a child, the local library allow people to check out older editions of encyclopedias. I used to check out a volume of The World Book Encyclopedia, take it home and skim through the articles. You can pick up a lot of trivia that way. Looking up random articles in Wikipedia is just not the same.

I suppose that within a century the printed book will be a obsolete as the clay tablets the Babylonians used.

The Encyclopedia Babylonica
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