What Future for Traditional Encyclopedias in the Age of Wikipedia?


  • Michael Upshall United Kingdom




Wikipedia, encyclopedias


The launch and rapid domination of Wikipedia as a reference tool for the Internet was as dramatic as it was unexpected. Wikipedia broke so many of the rules of reference publishing, which, even if not formally codified, had been widely accepted for many years: the use of (usually named) authorities as expert contributors, and the presence of moderating editors to ensure balanced structure. All this appeared to have been swept away with Wikipedia, and, not least because Wikipedia content is given away rather than sold, the competition between Wikipedia and most general-purpose encyclopedias was a sad and rather one-sided affair. One by one the existing commercial print general encyclopedias admitted defeat; among the latest is Brockhaus, the leading German encyclopedia brand, which ended publication early in 2013.


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