. Encyclopedias are what you read when you don't really care all that much about the subject.
Thinking about this...you are correct. If you want real in debt knowledge go to the sources. If you want a basic understanding, but not be inundated in the details Encyclopedias do that.
I remember grabbing a World-Book Encyclopedia whenever I needed quick bathroom reading. For a pre-teen/teenager it was perfect. I got a lot of real basic info about interesting subjects. But other than for a grade-school writing assignment, they were just dead trees. I think we got the update books up till 1980...so talk about outdated info.
Encarta was like a breath of fresh air. except you couldn't lug your PC into the restroom to read it.
Now...hell, smartphone+wikipedia and I'm set for life.