It came as inevitable although a great surprise when Encyclopaedia Britannica recently announced that it had stopped printing the Encyclopaedia and and that it would now be in the form of C.Ds. and D.V.Ds. It used to be so reassuring to see the entire volume of the encyclopaedia being displayed with great pride by some of the good libraries all over the world. Each volume was listed in alphabetical order, and it occupied the place of honour in the reference section of the library close to the entrance, under the watchful eyes of the Librarian. The visitors eyes fell on these venerable volumes as he entered the library. As an avid reader, I remember grabbing hold of any one leather-bound volume and just immersing myself in the book, soaking the information it contained. It was common to have 26 volumes of the Encyclopaedia along one or two indexes or supplementary volumes.
I guess, the Editors of the Encyclopaedia had finally woken to the fact that things have changed and people prefer reading books on Kindles, Laptops, Tablets, and Smart Phone in a form that is easily carried in a bag or even the pocket! Imagine carrying the entire 26 volumes of the Encyclopaedia in your pocket! It would give any sane person a hear attack to think so! However, this is very much true today! We have travelled from the steam age on to the atomic age, and now the Information age, where things have evolved and changed in leaps and bounds! The most important invention of the Victorian age was perhaps the Steam Engine, the reason or cause of the great Industrial revolution. But then, the Steam Engine was discarded for better cheaper machines that ran on oil, and then these also were discarded for engines running on electricity! We have also come a long way from listening to L.P./Vinyl records, Cassette Tape, on to C.Ds., D.V.Ds., on to Blue-Rays and U.S.B. memory devices! We have shrunk distances today not just with the help of air travel, but also with the help of the Internet also!
Change, evidently, is a reality of life, and to keep adapting and evolving means ensuring that we survive! As such, it is time to put aside the sentimental value of objects and obsolete technologies and instead embrace better and more cost-effective forms of technology! In this race for miniaturisation and the age of Nano-Technology it is surprising what miniaturisation has achieved and can achieve! It should not, therefore be much of a surprise for most of the avid readers to be able to carry all the twenty-six volumes of their favourite Encyclopaedia on chips of phones or hard-drives of their Laptops. Change has finally spelled the doom of printed books, and even the print media! Thus it is certain that the printed form of books will surely bow down to better forms in the same way that the smoke belching steam engine had to bow down to more fuel efficient and non polluting forms of engines.
For the connoisseur, however, the feel of paper between fingers, the scent of print on paper, and the joy of breaking the spine of a paper back will continue to be important joys of the reading habit! In the mean time, I guess all those lovers of books should devote more time to the reading habit, so that they might savour the pleasure of reading a printed paper-back or hard-back all the while knowing that soon this pleasure will no longer be ours! I guess very soon printed Encyclopaedias and other printed books will become collector’s items to be guarded with great pride!
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