I love encyclopedias. The whole idea of so much to know organized alphabetically is just really appealing to me. I really liked having Encyclopedia Britannica on Silvastone. The kid’s version was very useful for learning all kinds of stuff and having it explained clearly. Then if you got really specific you had to go to Mom and Dad’s encyclopedia which was always much harder to understand.

So I was sucker for Microsoft Encarta when it came out. I wound up with Encarta 96 when I got it on sale for $20. I got a deal on Britannica’s new CD version in 1997, but it was disappointing. They claimed to have all the text of the print version, but it never seemed to me the articles were very long. I bought Britannica again in 2000 and, while the articles seemed more complete (3 CD’s!), there was a clunky browser interface. Really it was just a big web site stored on CD. Sometimes you had to swap out disks. This was also the downfall of Encarta 98, though for Encarta 2000 (free with the computer I bought), they got it back down to one disk. Encarta was much snazzier than Britannica throughout all the different versions.

This month I got an offer for Britannica 2006 on DVD-ROM. A special offer let me get it for $19.95 plus $3.95 shipping, so I went ahead and bought it. (You can too by going to here picking out the 2006 Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite for $27.95 and applying the discount code “STOREHOL” at checkout; or you can buy the print version for $995 and the teen version for another $499). I haven’t gotten it in the mail but I hope that by having it on DVD with 5 times the information of a single CD, that it will be simpler to use and more complete. And hopefully they have worked out some bugs of past editions. I’ll let you know once I have a chance to try it out.

4 thoughts on “Britannica

  1. I like I just read about an accuracy test performed by some researches with the scientific journal Nature comparing Wikipedia to Britannica. They found the two to have very similar accuracy.

    I like to use Google for quick spelling and meaning lookups (via

    I remember thinking the Georgia flag was one of the coolest looking flags in Mom and Dad’s encyclopedia Britannica. It looked American. Little did I know it would stir up so much trouble, and it would no longer be the Georgia flag. (Nor did I realize how it became the Georgia flag.)

    I also remember the bird eggs color pages.

  2. The article actually says Wikipedia is nearly as accurate as Britannica based on 50 science articles, with each having 4 major errors, but Wikipedia having 162 minor errors to Britannica’s 123. It also says that Wiki articles aren’t written as well (since different paragraphs or even parts of sentences can be by different people). Also Wikipedia doesn’t always have a lot of pictures since those often have copyrights. I worry that people will take advantage of Wikipedia by intentionally publishing incorrect information as a joke, or just wanting to publish as much as possible without any regard for quality.

    Where Wikipedia can really fail is on controversial topics where opinions differ. I remember they had to lock down articles about George Bush and John Kerry during the election because so many people were making changes. Evolution is probably similar.

    However, Wikipedia really shines on current topics where their content can be more up-to-date than Britannica given the nature of how the articles are written.

    What you need are multiple sources to cross-check the information you are getting.

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