Tag Archives: Encyclopedia Britannica

The Future of the Book – From One Perspective

Britannica’s Michael Ross (also on the NSR Advisory Board), has an interesting blog post of the future of the book.  It is a summary of his thoughts and impressions from attending two book related conferences “down under.”  The article appears on the Britannica blog.  Michael discusses some eBook readers and devices, copyright, green thinking, and the overall impressions of younger Australians towards eBooks.

Side note, I love the “steal this widget” tactic on Britannica’s blog.  Widgets are in.

Britannica’s Overhaul

Original article in Boston Globe.  By Hiawatha Bray Boston Globe Staff / March 31, 2009

Enter Britannica
For 241 years, it’s been the gold standard of reference books, a premium-priced digest of the world’s accumulated knowledge. Now it’s being overwhelmed by an eight-year-old online upstart authored by amateurs and available at no charge. How can Encyclopaedia Britannica survive in a wiki world?

The venerable Encyclopaedia Britannica is preparing for the most radical overhaul in its 241-year history, and it’s recruiting its readers to do much of the work.

It’s a bid by Britannica to remain relevant at a time when the world’s most popular encyclopedia, the eight-year-old website Wikipedia, is written entirely by amateur experts. The new version of Britannica Online, set to debut this summer, will emulate the Wikipedia concept by letting subscribers make changes to any article, ranging from minor edits to near-total rewrites.

But Britannica president Jorge Cauz scoffs at the idea that he’s merely imitating his giant online rival. “I don’t believe it’s accurate to say that Britannica and Wikipedia are becoming more similar,” he said. While Wikipedia is written and edited by amateurs who often work anonymously, Britannica Online articles will be overseen by professional editors. In addition, there will be no anonymity: Authors and editors will be identified by name. Cauz said this will give Britannica Online articles a credibility and authority Wikipedia can’t match.

If Wikipedia’s credibility is lower than Britannica’s, users don’t seem to mind. With its 10 million articles – 2.7 million in English – and its 275 million readers per month, Wikipedia’s scale and popularity dwarf that of Britannica’s online edition, which serves just 200,000 households and offers just 112,000 articles.

Wikipedia grew so popular partly because it’s free, while Britannica Online charges $70 a year. And Wikipedia’s array of articles is so vast because anybody can write for it. Only paying subscribers will be eligible to write for Britannica Online.

Cauz concedes that Britannica will never have as many articles as Wikipedia. But he said many Wikipedia articles are about trivial topics Britannica has no interest in covering. “They can talk about porno actors and cartoon characters as well as heart attacks,” said Cauz. “That is something we will never do.”

Instead, Britannica will still focus on its core market: schools, libraries, and homes, where people need authoritative information on important topics.

Britannica still prints a traditional multivolume encyclopedia and other reference works, but about 75 percent of the company’s revenue come from online sales. Privately held Britannica won’t reveal its revenue and earnings numbers, but Cauz said the company has turned a profit for the past five years.

The upgraded encyclopedia is set to debut this summer, but a test version is already up and running. Users who open an article are given an editing option that turns the Web browser into a mini word processor, where they can make small or large revisions. These changes are submitted to a Britannica editor, and perhaps to the article’s author.

“We have full responsibility,” said Cauz. “Every article will have to go through the rigorous editorial review of Britannica.” If the changes pass muster, they’re added to the official Britannica article, and the name of the user who made the changes is published on the website.

Cauz noted Britannica Online will allow edits of all its articles. Ironically, this will give Britannica a more open editing policy than Wikipedia’s. Despite its reputation for openness, Wikipedia permanently “locks” some articles on controversial people and subjects to prevent changes. “We want to stop . . . what we call drive-by vandalism,” said Wikipedia cofounder Jimmy Wales.

Indeed, since its founding in 2001, Wikipedia has gradually tightened its standards, according to Andrew Lih, a Wikipedia editor and author of a new book, “The Wikipedia Revolution.”

“When it was first started, it was completely open editing,” Lih said. “Over the years, they’ve started to put more restrictions on it, simply because as you have a larger and larger crowd, it attracts more vandals.”

For example, about 3,000 articles are “semiprotected,” meaning that they can only be modified by Wikipedia users who have been members of the site for more than four days. Wales said he’s not entirely happy with this limitation. “One of the problems with semiprotection,” he said, “is that it’s difficult for newcomers to get involved.”

The German edition of Wikipedia addressed this problem by using “flagged revisions” of sensitive articles. These can be freely modified by anybody, even Wikipedia newcomers. But the modifications are flagged for review by a trusted editor before being published.

Now Wales plans to introduce flagged revisions to the English-language version of Wikipedia. He called it “an effort to open up pages to public editing that we have not had open to public editing for several years.”

If flagged editing works, it will make Wikipedia more open to public revision. But since some articles will remain locked, Wikipedia still won’t be quite as open to revision as Britannica Online.

Another addition to Britannica Online will come even closer to the original Wikipedia model. Cauz said Britannica subscribers and authors of articles for the encyclopedia will be given access to a separate area, where they can write articles on any topic they choose. When a Britannica Online user searches for information on a topic, links to these independent articles will appear alongside the official Britannica article. Each article will carry the names of its author and anyone who’s edited it, but there will be no review by Britannica editors, and the company won’t vouch for its accuracy.

Its critics say Wikipedia’s good name has been damaged by poorly written or libelous articles posted on the site. Britannica’s new feature could put its own reputation on the line. But determined to reinvent itself, Britannica is taking the risk.

Hiawatha Bray can be reached at bray@globe.com.

Widgets guide usage of eReference/eBooks

I love widgets.  Last week at the Charleston Conference I was on a panel discussing “bridging the google gap.”  I was to discuss ways libraries were bridging that gap through reference services.  Widgets was one of my answers.

Widgets can be embedded on multiple library web pages, course management systems, facebook, teacher/faculty websites, anywhere really!  Caution, my web designer friends always remind me to have one ONE search box on a page, otherwise it gets confusing.

There are many eBook/eReference vendors who provide widgets.  I’ve got links to some of them below.  If you know of others, send them my way and I’ll post.

Credo Reference – Search the entire Credo collection with their widget.  Some libraries have put the search widget on a reference page, as a starting point.  Now that Credo links to other sources through their “resource links” feature, users can start with traditional reference sources and move to journals or other databases of your choosing.   For a look at this feature, check out the  Watne Memorial Library .  You might also be interested in an informal review of the new Credo interface.

Gale/Cengage – GVRL in particular.    I am fond of this widget because you can establish subject collections of sets of titles.  Once you have the collection established, it can be placed in the widget and only those titles searched.  This is a fab idea for subject guides/pathfinders, or for class assignment links.

Encyclopaedia Britannica – see my recent post on these

Reference Universe – RU searches the indexes, TOC, and list of articles of both print and electronic reference titles.  Using your online catalog, they will connect the user to a reference source.  The widget opens up your entire reference collection.  St. Mary’s College of California has a great example of this widget.  Be sure to click on “reference.”

Britannica’s Widgets

A really neat feature from Encyclopaedia Britannica – Content Widgets .  I’m a big fan of widgets, particularly ones with nice visuals.  They draw the users attention and can lead them to authoritative reference content.  Here’s the official info from Britannica:

Check Out Britannica’s New Widget Feature!
Britannica Widgets are here, and with them you can instantly post an entire cluster of related Encyclopædia Britannica articles on your blog or Web site. Just follow the instructions and copy and paste the several lines of code associated with each widget as html into the appropriate place on your site. Any readers who click on a link will get the entire Britannica article on the subject, even if access to the article normally requires a subscription.

Widgets are an innovative way to share information on websites and blogs!

Here are a couple of samples (click for larger image):

britannica1.png britannica2.png

The Britannica Newsletter “inside Britannica” states it is a feature of the Britannica Online Academic Edition.  According to Lillian Terry, my Britannica Rep who sent me a nice email yesterday, this feature is also available in the Public and School online editions as well.  Very cool, very cool.

A Visit to Encyclopaedia Britannica

Monday, August 11th I stopped by the Encyclopaedia Britannica offices on LaSalle street in Chicago.  I visited Michael Ross, Senior VP of Corporate Development.  Michael gave me a nice tour of the Britannica headquarters and I took some photos to share with everyone.  You’ll see some remarkable similarities between an international publisher and a library.

britannica-001.jpg They have bookshelves AND servers.

britannica-002.jpg 60+ servers in 3 locations as a matter of fact.

britannica-004.jpg No, this isn’t spaghetti, it’s Britannica ONLINE!!  Don’t cut the pink one….

britannica-011.jpg Despite the thousands of wires to support Britannica online, they still have a print library collection.

britannica-009.jpg And they use white boards to sketch out future plans.

britannica-005.jpg I even got a sneak peek at the cover art for the 2009 Almanac!

britannica-010.jpg And they dress business casual, just like me!

Seriously now, Britannica has a really cool feature coming to all of their online products sometime this fall.  Right now it is called “project darwin” but it will take on a new name online.  This new feature will bring web 2.0 features to Britannica online including user comment/feedback areas.    Some other facts about Britannica:

Over one million visitors use Britannica online every day.

Britannica offers multiple interfaces for their products (they manage over 30) – public (free, with annoy wear) , individual membership, institutional/libraries, and multiple foreign language interfaces including Japanese, Chinese, Korean, French, and 2 in Spanish.

They offer thousands of videos too.

Britannica Blog offers daily posts on thousands of topics, by hundreds of writers – many well known.

For more information, check out Britannica Online here:  www.britannica.com

And thanks, Michael, for the tour!

What do you want from us? Reference Publishers want to know.

The last question asked during the ALA panel was asked by panelist, Michael Ross from Encyclopaedia Britannica.  He wanted to know from the librarians in the audience, “what do you want from us?”

Librarians were not shy in extending several responses:

§  I need to make my purchasing decision based on reviews. So, I need to find reviews and awards information easier on a publishers site, to determine and justify my purchase decision

§  More creative pricing models – to support many sizes and needs of institutions (ie. 2 simultaneous users, own, subscribe, collections)

§  Reference sources are duplicated too much. We have dozens of articles with same information. Can you all publish unique things?

§ Consistency in search protocols across platforms – boolean, truncation, plurals, default search, etc (better yet, how about one single platform, SP)

Librarians, what else is on your wish list for reference publishers?  Place your comments here so our panelists can see them.

ALA Program – The Future of Electronic Reference Publishing: A View From the Top

Headed to Anaheim?  Mark your calendars for this not to miss event:

2008 ALA Annual, Anaheim
Monday, June 30, 2008 10:30 – 12:00
Anaheim Convention Center 204B
Reference Books Bulletin (Booklist) sponsored program:

The Future of Electronic Reference Publishing: A View from the Top.

Top managers from reference publishing share their views about planning for tomorrow in a digital age and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Speakers:
John Barnes, Exec. V.P. Marketing and Strategic Planning, Gale/Cengage
Casper Grathwohl, V.P. and Publisher, Oxford University Press
Rolf Janke, VP/Publisher, SAGE Reference
Michael Ross, Sr. V.P. Corporate Development, Encyclopedia Britannica

Moderator:
Sue Polanka, Chair, Reference Books Bulletin Editorial Board

Britannica Opens Site for Free Access to Web Publishers, Linking

Britannica Opens Site for Free Access to Web Publishers, Linking CHICAGO, April 29, 2008

Bloggers, webmasters, online journalists and anyone else who publishes regularly on the Internet can now get free subscriptions to Britannica Online (www.britannica.com). Anyone interested in participating in Britannica’s new WebShare initiative can apply for a free subscription at http://signup.eb.com or get more information at http://britannicanet.com.

The free subscriptions are part of Britannica’s effort to increase awareness and use of its extensive information resources, which include articles written by many top scholars, some of them Nobel laureates. “It’s good business for us and a benefit to people who publish on the Net,” said Britannica president Jorge Cauz. “The level of professionalism among Web publishers has really improved, and we want to recognize that by giving access to the people who are shaping the conversations about the issues of the day. Britannica belongs in the middle of those conversations.”

In addition to the free subscriptions, Web publishers can also bring the value of Britannica’s content to their own sites by linking to any articles they find relevant to the topics they’re writing about. Access to much of the site, including full-text entries from the Encyclopaedia Britannica, normally requires a paid subscription. There’s an exception to that rule, however: When a Web site links to a Britannica article Web surfers who click on that link get the article in its entirety.

ALA Program – The Future of Electronic Reference Publishing

2008 ALA Annual, Anaheim
Monday, June 30, 2008 10:30 – 12:00
Reference Books Bulletin (Booklist) sponsored program:

The Future of Electronic Reference Publishing: A View from the Top.

Top managers from reference publishing share their views about planning for tomorrow in a digital age and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Speakers:
John Barnes, Exec. V.P. Marketing and Strategic Planning, Gale/Cengage
Casper Grathwohl, V.P. and Publisher, Oxford University Press
Alison Mudditt, Executive Vice President, Higher Education Group, SAGE Publications
Michael Ross, Sr. V.P. Corporate Development, Encyclopedia Britannica

Moderator:
Sue Polanka, Chair, Reference Books Bulletin Editorial Board