Contribution to our culture

Loss of print-edition encyclopedia means our culture will be lessened

Another of my icons has left the scene and I will miss it. Like an old gardening sweater seldom worn, it was somehow reassuring just to know it was there. I am referring to the just announced end of the print edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica after 250 years.

For all that time it had been the bedrock source of knowledge on thousands of topics. Of course, it had its critics but what human endeavour has not had its detractors? The updated volumes will no longer be found standing with earlier editions but will have to be summoned from the outer reaches of cyberspace.

I grew up in a home with few books and shortly after buying our first home I just had to have the E.B. in its own bookcase bringing a sense of learning and solidity to our family room. I contacted the company and shortly after a salesman called to make an appointment. It must have been exciting for him as most sales were done by knocking on the doors of grumpy householders. I had and still have a lot of empathy for salespeople having spent so many years in sales myself.

Promptly at 7 p.m., a young man my own age appeared at our door. I told him at the very outset that I wanted to buy the set and the only decision to be made was the colour of the cover and therefore our meeting could be brief. I might have been talking to a brick. He launched into an obviously memorized spiel including quoting passages from some Russian authors. I was impressed but again stressed that I was already sold and let’s look at colours.

After a brief pause, he took from his briefcase a brochure showing a very nice bookcase. He offered it to me as an inducement to buy. I nodded and said thanks and could we now look at the book covers.

He ignored me again and brought out yet another colourful brochure advertising the children’’s edition in 10 volumes that would be mine if only I signed.

I was floored and realized that he had been so programmed and nearly brainwashed that he simply could not stop until he had made the whole packaged presentation. I

found it almost surreal. Eventually we agreed on the covers and he left glowing with satisfaction over a great sales presentation. I sat shaking my head in disbelief.

But why mourn the demise of an institution like Encyclopedia Britannica when an even more important tradition is about to be inundated by the digital universe?

I’m referring to the way people read or don’t read, the gadgets that have made the book simply an adjunct to the latest digital craze, to be summoned or deleted in seconds.

An even more grievous loss is that of the independent book store owned by people who really know books and authors.

Looking for a book that will appeal to your favourite aunt in Manchester? Don’t waste your time enquiring at the local mega book market. The eager young clerk probably doesn’t  know where Manchester is, let alone have the background knowledge to recommend anything other than what’s printed on the New York Times Best Seller list.

For years, the small, family-owned bookstores have struggled to survive and to lose them to the soulless monoliths taking over the business is a tragedy and a loss  we simply can’t afford.

Let’s all support our local literary entrepreneurs and their specialized knowledge.

Consider the two bucks extra we paid as a contribution to our culture.


— Harvey Dorval is a regular News columnist



Just Posted

Man dead after reported early-morning hit-and-run incident in Parksville

Oceanside RCMP seek public’s help gathering information

Retired Nanoose Bay teacher ‘Set for Life’ after $675K lottery win

Shannon plans to buy new sails for his sailboat

Country music star Aaron Pritchett back in Qualicum Beach to play benefit concert

Singer to headline Thalassa restaurant fundraiser for Ronald McDonald house

Order in the chambers: Qualicum Beach votes for council code of conduct

Coun. Robert Filmer’s motion passes unanimously at town meeting

VIDEO: B.C. woman meets biological mother, 38 years later

Mother never gave up hope of finding daughter, despite all the obstacles

B.C. Lions fall to 1-9 after 13-10 loss to Ticats

Lowly Leos have dropped six straight CFL contests

VIDEO: B.C. woman meets biological mother, 38 years later

Mother never gave up hope of finding daughter, despite all the obstacles

B.C. man who died after rescuing swimmer was known for helping others

Shaun Nugent described as a dad, a coach, a hero and ‘stand-up guy’ at celebration of life

B.C. RCMP plane chases fleeing helicopter as part of major cross-border drug bust

The helicopter eventually landed at a rural property near Chilliwack

Thousands cycle to conquer cancer

The 11th annual Ride to Conquer Cancer took place Saturday morning, Aug. 24 in Surrey, B.C.

PHOTOS: Brazil military begins operations to fight Amazon fires

Amazon fires have become a global issue, escalating tensions between Brazil and European countries

Racist confrontation in Richmond parking lot caught on camera

Woman can be heard yelling racial slurs, swear words at woman in apparent parking dispute

Groups ready campaign to help young voters identify ‘fake news’ in election

The media literacy campaign to focus on identifying misinformation and suspicious sources online

Most Read