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Encyclopedia Britannica Goes To The Free 107

Cy Guy writes "You can now complete those research papers in half the time for free! EB has incorporated the full text of their dead tree and CD-ROM editions into a portal interface (with the typical web-based email, news headlines, etc.) A search of the Encyclopaedia, also searches "The Best of the Web", Magazines, and Books in Print. The results page also lets you pass your search to Searchopolis. They've released more information about it in the press release. "
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Encyclopedia Britannica Goes To The Free

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  • ...this will be a boon for my niece as she grows up.
    One thing I've been worried about for her was a new set of encyclopedias...

    My brother's current set is a little outdated (it lists the war of 1812 as an ongoing event)
    seriously :)
  • If it's read from one of those $99 CDROMs they've been flogging, no worries :-)
  • Yeah, they're going to go the advertising route. It's a great idea if they can get the word out to colleges aroung the globe. Who would use encyclopedias more, eh?

    It reminds me of buying college textbooks: whenever you do, they put your books in a plastic bag full of promotions for credit cards and other stuff. They couldreally focus the advertising with this model to only pull up, for instance, National Geographic subscription banners whenever any kind of animal search comes up.
    This looks really good for all parties.
  • Indexing: granted, but search engines are getting smarter, and the web itself seems to tend to organize itself knowledge centers.

    Scope: I actually think this is why I prefer it over an encyclopedia. I like to able to determine how much I want to know about a subject. Sometimes I want just a nice brief summary, sometimes I want to dive in and know everything about it.

    Sources: Granted that most of the web is full of crap, rumour and hearsay and I am not stating that everything on the web is as authoritative as an encyclopedia. What I do say is that along with all the crap out there, you can find primary sources, or trusted secondary sources. For instance I just did a google search on ballistics for the hell of it, and I got back some damn good pages on ballistics.
  • by jeff.paulsen ( 6195 ) on Tuesday October 19, 1999 @11:29AM (#1600985)

    When will we see an "Encyclopaedia Interneta"? A knowledge-oriented, peer-reviewed compendium of human knowledge? How could such a process benefit from the Slashdot model, as seen in the Jane Cyberterrorism story?

    I'm certain the key to storing and indexing knowledge is in there somewhere, but I don't think it's been done properly yet. (And I mean no disrespect to Everything. :) )

    If I had any moderator points today I'd give you one. 'Everything' is a step down the right path (it actually has a node / path model, which maps well to existing encyclopediae), but Slash (article / discussion model) is closer, in it's own way. The current moderation / karma system is quite good, and will get better, at showing me the good stuff and letting me ignore the crap.

    As high-karma individuals wield more and more power in some hypothetical Encyclopedia Interneta, we will need to be more concerned with identity theft. Reputation management is an emerging technology that will ultimately make massive general knowledge databases useable. If it is compromised, such that any twit can claim to be Stephen Hawking, the value of the compiled information falls quickly.

    topic drift: One thing I'd like to see is Karma adjusted by number of posts. People who gain karma by simply posting a whole damn lot, some fraction of which gains them points, should not have the same reputation as people who post once or twice a week, but consistently get moderated up.

  • "Perhaps we need an Open Source general encyclopedia to keep the Redmond minions out of this business?"

    Something like Project Gutenburg then http://promo.net/pg - not exactly an encyclopedia, but a great resource.
  • I thought that was just me... but then I found it was my own DNS server that was failing:

    [18:53] Failed to resolve www.britannica.com
    [18:54] Failed to resolve www.microsoft.com

    Gotta love @Home
  • No more strangers trying to sell me encyclopedias!

    I'm not kidding it keeps happening and its annoying.

  • by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) on Tuesday October 19, 1999 @04:52PM (#1600991)
    Search engines may be getting smarter but by no means do they cover the net completely. Even worse, there is no control of the keywords. A PROFESSIONAL index will include controlling the list of keywords so you will know how to find something. There is no way this can be done on the web.

    As far as scope, you have to realize that the goal of the EB is to cover a general body of knowledge completely as possible. With the internet there are large holes where there is no information at all. The Internet contains a tremendous amount of information on matters related to computers, however once you get off that topic and start looking at, say a comparison of greek language dialects you are very likely to come up with zilch on the internet.

    What I do say is that along with all the crap out there, you can find primary sources

    I think that the internet is very poor for anything to do with primary sources, or even high quality secondary sources. Very few scholarly journals are available on the internet, and certainly even fewer early sources.

  • A PROFESSIONAL index will include controlling the list of keywords so you will know how to find something. There is no way this can be done on the web.

    What? Whatever for? I always found it the hugest pain to have to look through the big index (library of congress? I forget who put it out) to find exactly how I needed to phrase my query in order to find it in a book. And who here hasn't gone through the pain of looking through the Yellow Pages (or local equivalent) trying to find one item, and having to reword it three times before you find it? It's like trying to find a word in a foreign language, and you have a dictionary that goes from the foreign lang to English but not back again.

    The greatest thing about the net is that hyperlinking and such is easy. There's no reason we have to wear the straitjacket of a predefined subject list. Not here.

  • > what's wrong with the /. model for
    > moderating an encyclopaedia?

    The /. moderation model consider moderator _opinion_ about contributed comments, not whether or not they are factually correct, meet minimum editorial standards, etc. Those are vitally important for an information which you want people to be able to cite authoritatively.

    In short, many of the comments people post here are off the top of their head, opinionated, or just dead wrong, yet get moderated well because either they convinced the moderator, the moderator agreed with the bias, or they just didn't know any better. A peer review model would work much better - in other words, just like the scientific community has used for decades.
  • Unfortunately, it was probably a business necessity that they made some changes - according to what I'd heard Encarta really gave them a walloping; who needs to buy a $2000 set of books when your PC came with something "the same" for free (or which you can buy for a few $$).

    This seems like more of an attempt to undercut Microsoft, the folks who undercut them - instead of selling it cheaply, they now give it away for free.
  • And how many posts so far have said "what's the bet it's running NT?"

    Insults work both ways.

  • this link [mercurycenter.com] is an article from mercury news about how slashdotted they are.

  • These are all good ideas (although 1. is essentially in place given their continued suport for paper and DVD editions), but based on the level of response which far exceeded their planned number of hits, they will likely make tons of money off of ads. After all, their advertising-based model must have expected that they would break even at X number of hits per day. Presumably they would have designed their site to handle some multiple of X hits (though this presumption is qualified if it is true that they are NT/IIS based), and they exceeded that multiple.
  • This kind of posting really adds to my enjoyment of /. I mean, I really love it when you point out the spelling errors. Attnetion moderators - this is what "-1: Offtipic" was invented for!
    I agree. It is rather silly to point out spelling errors when there are two in your own pointed criticism.
    Perhaps we'll have another "pointing out spelling errors point out spelling errors pointing out spelling errors" ad infinitum post some day soon.
  • I just checked that site, now it says they're running
    Netscape-Enterprise/3.6 SP2 on Solaris.

    They realized NT crap is useless ...

  • The death of Britannica would be a travesty. I grew up with one, and I suspect a lot of other /.'ers did. For it to die at Microsoft's hand would be a crime against nature.
    Funny, I thought evolve or die was a very natural course for things to take. Just consider MS doing a nice job of helping things along.
    Yes, hmm, well T. Rex probably did a good job of helping some other life forms pass into geological history, but in the end, being huge and having big teeth just didn't turn out to be the optimal solution.
  • This couldn't be like OSS software projects. Some kind of staff has to have a final, near dictatorial say on what goes in and what doesn't. It couldn't work like Everything does. There would have to be standards for citation and academic credibility. It would, in the end, be much like a regular encyclopedia's editing staff, except that articles would be submitted and rewritten by unpaid.

    In the end, it might have to be a bit like Mozilla. A paid staff somewhere would have to exist to do revision and editing.
  • by irix ( 22687 )
    This kind of posting really adds to my enjoyment of /.

    I mean, I really love it when you point out the spelling errors.

    Attnetion moderators - this is what "-1: Offtipic" was invented for!

    Get a life.

    Oh - and shouldn't that be "leave your spelling alone"? Guess we all aren't perfect after all.
  • It says it's /.'ed:

    Sorry, connection to host www.britannica.com on port 80 refused.

  • My only problem with that would be that if you were going to have an Electronic Repository For All Knowledge (Encycloedia Internetica?), you'd need a REALLY good bunch of moderators

    *cough* *cough* erm, I thought we were a bunch of good moderators... what's wrong with the /. model for moderating an encyclopaedia? It would have to be tuned for the new application, of course. And think of the size of db required. One thing, think how nice it would be to have such an online resource without animated gifs.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    You mean that old guy from Isaac Assimov's Foundation went through all that trouble to save mankind's accumlumated wisdom by moving 100,000 people to a barren planet so they could preserve and write the all encompassing encyolpedia of history when all he had to was put it on the web?

    Sheesh. Those people are probably going to be pissed when they check this link out.
  • Brittanica haven't sold encyclopedias door to door for several years. I doubt whether the fact that a competitor has placed their wares online for free will cause the others to immediately changing their tactics.

    Just stand behind the door and yell "I'm not home"..it's what I normally do.
  • It might make sense to have two kinds of karma: writer's karma and knowledge karma. Knowledgable individuals would be able to review and revise content, but only those with good writer karma get to compose entries. (I'll have to think about the implications of that, this is sort of off the top of my head.) In my experience (I used to write dictionaries before I discovered how little work programming is, a not too dissimilar buisness) the topic experts were usually not the best writers.

    Traditionally, material in encyclopedias must come from other printed sources and the encyclopedia editor has to have a long citation list, even if that list isn't printed. That model should remain in place. Even if an expert says something is so-and-so, that doesn't mean it's the accepted wisdom. Encyclopedias are generally about accepted wisdom, not the latest thing.

    There still has to be some core group responsible for final editing and meeting deadlines.
  • Won't this just lead to the end of the Encyclopedia Brittanica?

    Maybe. But, remember the speed of the internet, and the number of people likely to be using this at a time, and the speed of most people's access, etc, etc. Think large movies/pictures/etc.

    If its just for occasional access, then I'd use this. But if I was a {uni,library,masters/phd student}, then I'd buy the CD (on a site license - I seem to recall they have these), and get faster access for a reasonably minimal price.

    Bradley
  • To be fair, I think it is perfectly valid for someone to be moderated up for saying something "wrong" if it is done in a meaningful or thought-provoking way.

    Every one of the positive modertations is really an opinion of the moderator. "Off-topic" or even "FlameBait" or "Troll" or whatever it's called is more objective. What's funny or thoughtful to one person might be stupid or pointless to another, but we can usually all agree when someone is trying to be a jerk or is completely in left-field. (I personally have never moderated a post down.)

    In any event, I frequently moderate posts up that state things I not sure are factual just because the post makes me think about the topic in a new way or raises some point I hadn't considered. Moderation of factual article must be much more formal, based not on the opinion of the moderator, but data that can be backed up with citations.
  • Yeah, it's called the slashdot double standard. And while we all know that if it was running Windows NT it's more prone to crash, they just can't help themselves when they see a chance to stick a jab at Microsoft (or shall I say micro$oft, heh). For all we know a router somewhere could have gone down, or maybe the servers bandwidth was stretched too thin, but no, "It must have been running Windows NT!!!" *sigh* And you'll note of course that that post was not moderated down to -1 flamebait, when really it was offtopic and flamebait as much as the "Must have been running linux" post. I'd moderate it myself but my karma is at -3 because I posted a few things about BeOS a few months ago. I can see it now: "Oh look, someone says something good about an OS that isn't linux!!! MODERATE 0 HEE HEE!!" My karma is probably gonna go down from this one too. :P
  • by loki7 ( 11496 ) on Tuesday October 19, 1999 @05:30PM (#1601017) Homepage
    This looks really good for all parties.

    I don't know what kind of parties you go to, but if they involve encyclopædias they're either really boring or really weird.

    /peter

  • by Parity ( 12797 ) on Tuesday October 19, 1999 @06:48PM (#1601018)
    According to netcraft, www.eb.com ... which is also the encyclopedia britannica ... is running Netscape Enterprise Server on Solaris.
    I think it's a reasonable assumption that www.britannica.com is the same. This doesn't speak badly of Solaris or Netscape, IMO... it's just, that there's nothing quite so spectacularly useful to such a broad cross-section of the population as a free, on-line, high-quality encyclopedia. They may need to increase their capacity, oh... to about a thousand times what it was when they were a pay site.

  • I saw a report on this on CNN this morning, before I saw it on slashdot. I guess CNN viewers [slashdotted] the site before we even got a chance. Looks like we have competition ;)
  • I just heard on the news that it was going on line, but that people had been having trouble accessing the site due to the large amount of traffic. The didn't say it explicitly, but could this be the Slashdot effect at work? That would be really awesome.

    (yes, I know, this probably made it into other news shows at more reasonable times, but I've been asleep for 12 hours.)

  • Actualy... if you go to www.britanica.com currently, their message is quite obviously served by MS IIS becuse it?s quite apprently they they?re not using the normal ISO standard character set.
  • Netscape En....what did you say a netscape product?

    That explains everything :P
  • Actually, according to the LA Times, the site will offer content from partners such as the Washington Post and the Guardian of London on Friday. The site is supposed to be up today (Tuesday).
  • by c0chese ( 8123 )
    slashdotted already
  • Encyclopedia Britannica has been available
    via the WWW since January of 1994.
    Of course, until now you've had to pay for the content :-)

    www.britannica.com is overloaded, but
    if you want to see their existing Britannica
    Online (BOL) site, with the same article content, jump to http://www.eb.com/ and sign up for
    their trial membership.




  • by musicmaker ( 30469 ) on Tuesday October 19, 1999 @10:58AM (#1601030) Homepage
    Down already...

    Sniff sniff, sniff... (thinks)... Micrsoft web server?

    I could recognise that smell anywhere. Pity.
  • by vlax ( 1809 ) on Tuesday October 19, 1999 @11:03AM (#1601031)
    Wow! I just submitted the same story. Looks like I was a little late.

    I'm very happy to see EB free on the web. Charging people monthly to use an encyclopedia never struck me as a very viable strategy. The fear I have though is that this bodes badly for those who hope to sell information over the web. If EB can't break even doing it, who can?

    Encyclopedias are very expensive to maintain. I'm not at all sure an advertising model can pay for adequate work at all. According to the AP wire article [yahoo.com], it looks like Microsoft is the main culprit here - they're very nearly giving away Encarta.

    Now, Encarta is crap. Before MS, it was the grocery store quality Funk and Wagnall's Encyclopedia. I would hate to see MS take over yet another industry segment.

    The death of Britannica would be a travesty. I grew up with one, and I suspect a lot of other /.'ers did. For it to die at Microsoft's hand would be a crime against nature.

    Perhaps we need an Open Source general encyclopedia to keep the Redmond minions out of this business?
  • Is it just me or does this seem short sighted? I mean, it's great that there's such free, easy access but how are they going to pay for continuing research to keep it current?

    Won't this just lead to the end of the Encyclopedia Brittanica?


    My guess is it'll lead to clickthrough sponsorship.

    Please help support our sponsors!
    Click here to vote for us in the "top 100"!





    mcrandello@my-deja.com
    rschaar{at}pegasus.cc.ucf.edu if it's important.
  • by Enoch Root ( 57473 ) on Tuesday October 19, 1999 @11:08AM (#1601034)
    You know, I remember back when the first commercial websites were opening up, and everyone was hyped about the WWW being some sort of gigantic Web-based encyclopedia...

    The first things I tried to do was: 1) Access the Encyclopaedia Britannica online (had to pay) and 2) visit the Louvres (had to pay too, at the time.) That was a major bummer.

    So this is a nice change of pace, and it's about time it came about, too. The simple fact of the matter is, you can't compete against a clever search engine and a modicum of intelligence when it comes to looking for information on the Web.

    EB is doing a smart move, and they probably realise they'll make much more money with well-targeted ads than by charging a membership fee. However, I'm not sure if it means the EB won't be obsolete. Its strong point is a variety of expert writeups and a central collection of articles. Its weak points? It's still a book trying to become an Internet knowledge database.

    When will we see an "Encyclopaedia Interneta"? A knowledge-oriented, peer-reviewed compendium of human knowledge? How could such a process benefit from the Slashdot model, as seen in the Jane Cyberterrorism story?

    I'm certain the key to storing and indexing knowledge is in there somewhere, but I don't think it's been done properly yet. (And I mean no disrespect to Everything [blockstackers.com]. :) )

    "There is no surer way to ruin a good discussion than to contaminate it with the facts."

  • ... IIS?

    "I put fifty quatloos on the newcomer!"
  • Fifteen minutes later.....Yup still down.

    As for my on-topic response, this is good and bad.

    Good because you have an immense amount of information at your fingertips. Get information about anything, right now.

    Bad because you have an immense amount of information to sort through. I'd be afraid to do a paper on AIDS or WWII or even US History.
    Search Results: Showing 10 out of 10e6 hits

    Anyway, I'll check it out if the server ever recovers...
  • Is it just me or does this seem short sighted? I mean, it's great that there's such free, easy access but how are they going to pay for continuing research to keep it current?

    Won't this just lead to the end of the Encyclopedia Brittanica?
  • The death of Britannica would be a travesty. I grew up with one, and I suspect a lot of other /.'ers did. For it to die at Microsoft's hand would be a crime against nature.

    Funny, I thought evolve or die was a very natural course for things to take. Just consider MS doing a nice job of helping things along.

    You can't run a business for the same way for hundreds of years and expect to survive. Hell, these people were still peddling these things door to door up to 2 years ago!
  • I don't know if anyone else has said this; but I think it all goes to prove a very important point:
    Information wants to be free. [gnu.org]
    Who [gnu.org] was it that said that?

    -Benjamin Shniper

  • This is a much better distribution method than the old Encyclopedia. The web encyclopedia never has an excuse for the information being outdated like the print edition, and a library could more easily afford a few computers than purchasing a new set of encyclopedias every year. Besides that, the computers could be put to multiple uses. Unlike the encyclopedias.
  • My only problem with that would be that if you were going to have an Electronic Repository For All Knowledge (Encycloedia Internetica?)....

    what I would really like is an encyclopedia for ALL knowledge.
    what I mean is that you should be able to ask questions like:

    what is the chemical composition for the blue ink in the color cartridge of the epson stylus color 640
    how many cars in the US are running on gas
    How many green sweaters does Bill gates have
    what is the color of the traffic light on xx Th street in new york
    What is the average number of bolts used to attach street name signs to buildings

    things like that.
    like ALL knowledge.

    ---
  • They made a go at charging access fees and it just didn't work. Now they're gonna try the ad revenue route. Their only alternative was to close down entirely, so I don't think it was too short-sighted.
  • Yup. And speaking of the Mac, someone needs to do a Sherlock [apple.com] plug-in for this. No more cheesy Encyclopedia.com searches for me!

    --
  • What is "the free"?

    Obviously, they meant it's going to Americans. The home of The Free and The Brave, yo.

    OK, so it's going only to rich Americans...the only free ones.
  • This couldn't be like OSS software projects. Some kind of staff has to have a final, near dictatorial say on what goes in and what doesn't.

    You mean like Linus?

    Frankly, I might be interested in writing articles even for free. Heck, I was thinking that one thing I wished I'd done was set up an Internet Encyclopedia. The web is a wonderful source of info, but it is scattershot and hard to search. Moreover, there's no easy way to determine age appropriateness; the entry for a six year old should be less in-depth and less technical than that for an adult. if it takes advertizing to hire moderators and organizers, and the writers are ill-paid or unpaid, I can work with that.
  • Try the The DICT Development Group [dict.org]. They run FILE: The Free Internet Lexicon and Encyclopedia - it's really a dictionary rather than an Encyclopedia, but it is open source, and it is an attempt to fulfill and extend RFC 2229 [isi.edu] - A Dictionary Server Protocol.
  • You mean like Linus?

    Point well made.

    I'd volunteer, but it's not a part time job, and I kinda need my paycheck.
  • I guess this was done as the site was not currently accessible. Is this some kinder/gentler /. that backs off after a site gets /.ed? (Though in this case, the site was having serious problems even before I submitted it to /.)

    Let's see whether /. reposts the story (or at least includes in the Old Stuff area) once EB gets back on their feet.

    I found it surprising that the site was having such problems, since they seem to be combining their efforts with the Newsweek web team, and they managed to live through the Starr Report.
  • what is this? why is this story gone from the main page?
  • I finally managed to reach Britannica's site, and I see absolutely no mention of the service being free for anyone's use (nor can I reach the link to the press release). All I can find is the 30-day free subscription, after which you'd have to pay the monthly fee. Which eb.com has been doing for years. Is this a non-story, or have they restored to out-of-date web pages after a crash?
  • Doesn't it seem like that encylopedia's are an outdated way to store information? I feel that the web as a whole has replaced the encyclopedia as the ultimate compendium of knowledge.

    I don't even remember the last time I used the encyclopedia, rather that doing a google(or before
    that altavista) search.

    The 'circle of arts and science' has effectively become a 'network of everthing.'
  • How many green sweaters does Bill gates have?

    hmm...... what happens when the repository gets to the stage where I can ask "how much in the red is Mr. Joe Black's finances this week?"

    some things should never be public.

  • I finally got in tonight after trying throughout the day. But to search the encylopedia, the portal site just sends you to http://www.eb.com where you have to sign up for a 30 day trial to search for information or try their limited search option. This is the same fscked up thing that Deja news did, wrapping a great site with useless fluffy BS. The advanced search option doesn't search the encylopedia, it just searches the net. Pffffft!
  • i'm wondering too. forgive me for shouting be somenone pleez tell me WHERE IS THIS STUFF???
  • That's when the privacy advocates will pat you on the shoulder and say "we told you so!"
    --
    Leonid S. Knyshov
    Network Administrator
  • Well just remember that there are life forms living today that are almost exactly like they were thousands of years ago. Evolution dosen't necessary kills every one that dosen't change. It just kills the ones that are not fit in the current enviroment.

    Business should have a anology, I mean you could run your business for two towsand year without changing it, it only needs to "fit" well in every possible market and situation. If door to door sales are working, and it should be since you're saying that they still do it, why stop? What makes it obsolet?

    --
    "take the red pill and you stay in wonderland and I'll show you how deep the rabitt hole goes"
  • I'm surprised that they haven't explored complimentary business models besides advertising. Off the top of my head

    1) Value added services for libraries such as Science Triva Pursuit, improved indexing, automatic language translation, etc

    2) Reducing costs by soliciting for contributor pictures and pperhaps new entries (a la HitchHiker's Guide to the Galaxy/Earth)

    3) Provide a persistant URI scheme based on reader's feedback and license that to other players.

    4) Look at repackaging subcategories, perhaps as electronic books or quick reference material (cheat notes?).

    5) License material to other people as anotations to say index of human body, history or geography (though National Geographic would probably be better).

    These are just off the top of my head but I'm sure /.ers can come up with more. The big problem is that the world has changed whereas encyclopedias haven't. I do remember the fun I had just randomly browsing, fascinated by the connections between the science entries. Maybe they just need to hire some people with a bit more creative/lateral thinking than stogey old salespeople? If they spend some time think about their job and business (are they a creator, aggregator, repackager or distributor of information?), I'm sure they can add value to their existing knowledge-base and get back some market share against its competitors.

    LL
  • Go to Britannica [britannica.co.uk] now and it'll say it can't handle the load. Check out the Netcraft [netcraft.com] web server thingummy - Britannica is running on NT & IIS No wonder it's giving this message. Is there an email address to send a message to tell them to upgrade their system to some free Unix?
  • >The $99 CD-ROM edition is also selling quite well

    I just bought the CD-ROM edition for $49... Canadian. That's like $33 US. Maybe it wasn't selling so well after all?

    Just another factoid.

  • This is very very smart on their part. Think about it - Imagine the traffic they'll get. Thousands of people just itching to get their information from them, because now you don't have to buy the set on CDROM (or books, unless you're so inclined). And all that traffic translates into one thing. Ads. We've come to love them and they're our little way of paying for broadcast/request media.

    Not like they're badly in need on money, but EB's going to make a pretty penny.

    -----------

    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • Actually, their poor web server has been like that all morning. The last several hours not only has the HTTP server been refusing to respond, but even DNS queries are often failing. Fortunately, on Britannica's time scale they have 50 years to fix the problems.
  • Both the book model and the web model have R&D costs for the content. So, the differentiators are:

    Book market: high production and delivery costs. To remain competitive (or just to be able to get people to buy at all) means markup on books must be small. I suppose you could make it up on the subscription updates, etc.

    Web market: lower production and delivery costs. In this case, they give it away, so no money from markup. Advertising dollars only.

    TV shows advertising only dollars work well. I'll bet they have a better chance staying alive this way than with the books/CDs.
  • I wonder how much of these was the result of the Open Content initiative, as well as others such as the directory.mozilla.org and Gutenberg projects. Anyone have any ideas?
  • YES. I want someone to make an Open Source Encyclopedia. But not me. But maybe they'll let me write an article or two.
  • I tried them hours ago (because of a yahoo story). The site was already pretty much down. I'm sure slashdot isn't helping, but it looks like they're having a fundmental capacity issue.
  • My only problem with that would be that if you were going to have an Electronic Repository For All Knowledge (Encycloedia Internetica?), you'd need a REALLY good bunch of moderators. I mean, take a look at Everything.Blockstakers.com (i think that's the link, it's on topof slashdot). Everything gets really silly sometimes. I mean, it's great and all, but would you ever cite it on a research project? (probable response : I already have!) The moderators we have for slashdot, while choosing at times ceratin things that seem to be apocryphical, irrelevant and even contradictory, tend to give us the impoortant stuff. Personally, I think blockstackers has a good format, it just needs moderation.
  • "topic drift: One thing I'd like to see is Karma adjusted by number of posts. People who gain karma by
    simply posting a whole damn lot, some fraction of which gains them points, should not have the same
    reputation as people who post once or twice a week, but consistently get moderated up"

    I agree wholeheartedly. It is preferable that quality posts take precedence over quantity. I often see the same few people posting the same basic posts over and over. I'd prefer a wider variety of informed opinions.

    Also, I think that "funny" posts should not increase points. What is funny to one person may be completely stupid to another. This would not be a problem, but half of the posts kicked up to two points seem to be the same type of lame humor. I prefer information to supposed "humor".
  • I agree this is definitely not good news. I think Brittanica should not have made their information free - maybe selected portions of it. It will be a shame if they go out of business - information of the quality and depth they provide cannot be replaced by decentralized sources like the WWW, or cheap but glitzy sources like Encarta. However, like the dumbing down of evening news, it is probably inevitable.
  • According to the LA Times, the Encyclopedia Brittanica site won't open until Friday. If this is correct, all of you folks are banging on the doors of a site that isn't open for business yet. Frustrating, isn't it. Anticipation can be sweet, relax and enjoy the possibilities.
  • The web has some serious flaws as a source of information. It is quite haphazard rather than being carefully reviewed for scope and completeness, it has terrible indexing, and most of the surces are not authorataive or reviewed.

    It's going to be a long, long time before the web will replace a good library.


  • I agree with these comments. I've been using online EB for just over a year now (they extended my membership to eighteen months when they reduced the fees which I thought was nice of them) and I find it far better than just web surfing.

    The content is, of course, fantastic. They have the usual printer-friendly formatting (though the pics don't work) and they have links from each article to web content.

    One of the most important points is that made above -- that the content is more reliable than the web as returned by a search engine. It is provided by authorities in the field, it is reviewed, it is well cross-referenced and it is well edited.

    Of course, free access for everyone to such a source of knowledge outweighs by far the disadvantage to me of having to see ads but I suspect I will miss the days without them.
  • by Priestess ( 30745 ) <adam@icomicFORTR ... m minus language> on Tuesday October 19, 1999 @03:51PM (#1601080) Homepage
    I find myself in almost constant awe at what the internet in general and the web in particlar has done. This is such good news (even though the site is already slashdotted and I can't see it yet) I can't begin to express it properly.

    I'll try anyway, I'm sure you knew I would.

    fifteen years ago my parents didn't buy an encyclopedia for me, they brought me a Spectrum instead and I don't know if they realise what a favour that did me. Information on paper is nice, but expensive. Information on a bitstream hasn't yet found the perfect presentation but it's evolving so quickly that God himself has to be impressed. Who in their right mind would have imagined, when I was playing Manic Miner and giving my uncle nightmares about jumping little white men that we'd have the whole of the encyclopedia available FOR FREE to anyone who was interested enough to read it IN YOUR OWN HOME for the cost of a local telephone call (Plus some overhead which isn't much more than the cost of that Spectrum)?

    Nobody. Only the insane.

    I find myself lost for words when I'm trying to explain to someone who's never done anything but look at corporate websites over a slow connection just what potential this medium of ours has. We really can change everything. We can give low cost education to anyone who wants it. We can supply documentation on anything people need documentation on. We can elucidate on any proplems anyone has understanding and IT ALL COSTS ALMOST NOTHING.

    The distributed model works so well it scrambles my brain. One intelegent person can now reach thousands without even trying. And those thousands will listen becasue they're not as dumb as the traditional media (and myself at times) gives them credit for and even if they are a proper distributed moderation system sorts out the bullshit from the opinion from the truth more easily than any editor.

    People have also mentioned Everything and I guess H2G2 will get there if they give up on human editors soon enough. How long will it be before I can type "Nutritional chicken feed" into google and practically immediately learn how to nurse my sick hen into health, probably getting a joke or two thrown in?

    • You want info? - It's free.
    • You want Music? - It's free.
    • You want Software? - It's Free!
    • You want Movies - Give it a year, tops.
    The only problem people have that gives me any cause for concern at all is how all this stuff will get made when it's free for distribution.
    Who will make it when they can't make any money from it?
    they say. That does worry me a little, especially with Movies which are EXPENSIVE to say the least, but I look at the software scene which people said the same things about and I look at MP3.COM and I look at news like this (It used to cost over a thousand and now it's FREE) and just figure that most talented people are vain enough that they don't need the money and that society wants to reward these people enough that they will get rewarded. And contributing to a properly distributed system so so inexpensive that people DO do it on their own time for nothing more than the desire to make things better.

    The whole idea of information wanting to be free and people helping it to do so for no better reason than whim and a desire to enrich people with what they know: To TEACH gives me pause with my pessmism. It's about the only thing that does.

    Pre.....
  • Has anyone considered the implications of this? The trouble of any medium of informational exchange being entirely web-based presents the obvious potential of a page getting hacked, and therefore mis-information is spread. I find it hard to believe the security on that type of site would be very good. The problem here is that with a palm pilot and the proper accessories, one could be walking down the street and stop at an intersection. Waiting for the light to turn green, this person re-writes history, then continues happily on his way. Maybe a far out scenario, but very possible, and very likely.
  • [to the tune of Rule, Brittanica]
    Among Encyclopaediae, Brittanica rulez Encarta,

    And now we webber, webber, webbers shall be smarta!
    ... and freer from monopoly. Yup, one restrictive copyright's the same as another, but it's fun to watch competition drive the prices down down down. Ads or no ads, access to a big database is always better than no access.
  • This is very very smart on their part. Think about it - Imagine the traffic they'll get.

    Evidently they haven't imagined it. Their site is slashdotted already.

  • Well, I don't think the online site *has* to be self-sustaining. They still sell quite a few copies of the dead-tree edition, for over $2000 a set, to libraries and individuals, and those bring in a nice profit. The $99 CD-ROM edition is also selling quite well (I have a copy, and I know a few other people that have it). Sure, providing the information for free online may cut into the CD-ROM's sales, but, not having a T1 line, I'd still rather have the full text and large images on a CD-ROM than over a 26.4 dialup link.
  • I remember lobbying my parents to buy me a subscription to the web version in 1995 for my senior english paper. My dad didn't think that they, or the web, would be around at the end of the year subscription. hehe
  • Britannica did try to get into the web directory buisness a while back. They had 1 paragraph reviews of all the listed websites. I'm looking for a URL, since I can't get to britannica.com either. It couldn't really compete with ODP in terms of number of links, but it might have worked in combination with ODP data.

    Gutenberg only handles out of copyright and donated material. They pose little threat to the publishing industry.

    I haven't seen much come out of the Open Content people. Encyclopedias require a lot of top down organisation - it might work as an open source project, but only one with a full-time editorial staff, at least a small one, that has final editorial say. A little like Mozilla, execpt without the same debugging problems.

The first version always gets thrown away.

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