Book People Archive

Re: 11th edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica

> The publication of a public domain edition of the 11th edition of
> Encyclopaedia Britannica is a milestone in book production, but, alas,
> it is not a milestone in publishing or indeed of the enrichment of the
> public domain.  I was involved with this project from the other side
> ten years ago, as the CEO of EB, where I was trying to stop this
> monstrosity from happening, but now it has happened, and the world of
> learning is no better for it.

I respectfully disagree.  The eleventh edition is a classic and it is a 
snapshop of its times.  A sort of fly in amber. As are all the public domain
books that you come across.  Many of which are heavily edited when they appear
in modern editions.  Doctor Dolittle is one which springs to mind immediately.  

> To get an easy point out of the way:  the 11th edition is in the
> public domain and no one can prevent its republication, nor, to my
> knowledge, has anyone ever tried.  It may be possible to prevent the
> EB name, a registered trademark, from being affixed to it, as Michael
> Hart of Project Gutenberg assured me it would not be, but I see from
> the recent Gutenberg newsletter that this promise is not being
> observed by all involved.

Actually something has a name and it is or it isn't what it is.  

> What's wrong with the 11th edtion?  Two things:  it is woefully out of
> date, which should be known and appreciated by all involved with this
> project, and therefore has no value, or perhaps only negative value,
> as a reference work; and secondly, when mounted online it inevitably
> will be confused with current editions of EB and other reputable
> publications, especially if it bears the famous trademark, which, for
> the unsuspecting, will lead to an education into a world before Watson
> and Crick and before the redrawing of the borders of Poland umpteen
> times.  As for the blatantly racist articles, if you can stomach them,
> I have no comment.

It is actually online as we speak in at least three places right now if you 
don't count mirror sites. Do a simple Google search and you will see what I 
mean.  One here in the US and one in Germany. If you consider that the
Wikipedia is extensively based on the 11th edition you have a third. None of
which have anything to do with Project Gutenberg.  And as well there are 3
publishers which are reprinting it.  One in hard copy and 2 as image files
on CD.  I don't see anyone confusing them with the later editions of the EB.
As for the charges of obsolete knowledge or racism again that is simply par
for the course with public domain materials.  You have to admit that
technology and knowledge has moved on from that point as well.  As for
racism at least we "see" the racism for what it is rather than it simply
be the accepted background of the culture.  

You might ask why would we need another version online?  Simply because the 
ones on line presently are little more than unchecked ocr'd files.  Lots of
ocr errors.  And because the Gutenberg edition has the illustrations as well
in the html version.

> The 11th ed. is valuable as a historical record of the state of
> knowledge in 1910, or at least knowledge according to EB's own
> idiosyncracies at that time.  (As for its current idiosyncracies,
> again, no comment.)  Historians interested in these volumes for that
> purpose have never had difficulty in getting their hands on them (I
> saw the complete set in my local used bookstore priced at $20).  

If you email the name of the bookstore to me I will gladly buy the set for 
$20.  As I can turn around and sell the one that I already have for
$800-$1,000. Which is the range for the going price for a set.

> An online edition is a great idea, provided it is authoritatively edited
> and published with prominent headnotes on every page/screen, making
> the Surgeon General's warnings apparent to the reader.  Can we expect
> this to be the case as the digital text now flies around the globe
> with a mouse-click?  I doubt it.  This is an irresponsible project,
> and I know of no commercial publisher, however overwhelmed by avarice,
> who would undertake anything comparable to it.

You don't seem to have much respect for the intellegence and the moral sense 
of the general public.  The other editions online that I mentioned previously 
don't seem to require such warnings.  And the updatings of the Wikipedia would 
seem to resolve your concerns in this matter unless you disagree with common 
people doing their own editing.

You actually have missed what I would have considered the more hazardous part 
of putting the 11th online and that is the "how to" parts on the making of 
explosives and   the various processes which could be used in making 
recreational drugs.  Things certain to endear one to Homeland Security and
the DEA.  But then again I certainly have not heard of anyone who has
actually has done those things and been caught.


David Reed