Wow. I read this headline yesterday while taking my daily CNN.com cruise (I do have to see just how the silly GOP primary season is going, after all – it’s like a slow-moving train wreck, and I just can’t look away…) and stopped short. As crazy as it sounds, I had this massive flashback. Me, sitting in the closet of my mother’s dressing room, around the age of six or seven, reading our set of Encyclopedia Britannica from cover to cover for weeks on end.
My parents were one of those hundreds of thousands who purchased the full set – the type of set many of you may remember, where a volume arrived very few weeks or so until the A to Z collection was complete. I read them like a fat kid ate cake. Couldn’t get enough of them. When I got to the end of the Z volume, I went back to A. Still to this day, I attribute a lot of where I am today to reading those voraciously as a young child. As a parent myself, I knew that THE most important thing I could teach my children was to read, and to constantly encourage them to read.
It’s a different world now, obviously. I’m totally on board with digital editions of books – have been for quite some time. I’m not one of those married to the “feel” or “smell” of books, and I would definitely rather read ebook than paper, but…man, this hit me. The knowledge of the world is available in seconds online, yet there’s just something about that memory, me holding a flashlight a cracking open the next exciting letter volume, that made me stop and think.
In all likelihood, that’s an era that will never be experienced again – a 244 year history of printed encyclopedias has come to an end. Kids won’t wait anxiously for the encyclopedia salesman to drop off the next five pound book that they will crack (literally, as that crisp new spine cracks for the first time) and hide in the closet to read.
Kids today have access to infinitely more knowledge than at any time in human history, and even though I don’t pine for the days of horse & buggy, or telegraphs, or oil lamps, I have to look upon this news with just a touch of sadness.
Last night I ordered the hardcover versions of the Lord of the Rings trilogy for my 11 year old son. I have the electronic versions for his Kobo, but something just made me want to give him that crack of the spine.
Love to hear your thoughts or memories…