When I was a kid in elementary school, I used to love looking at the encyclopedia. We had an old World Book Encyclopedia – probably ten years out of date – that I thought was one of the most fascinating things in the world. I think that at that age I could not imagine there being more than one such book in existence. It seemed to contain all the information in the entire world. Whenever I had a question the my teacher could not answer, she would tell me to go look it up in the worldbook encyclopedia, and inevitably the answer was there.
I think I loved the way that the articles were laid out. Most of the entries in the World Book Encyclopedia were only a few pages long, and none of them were much more than ten. It seemed like, in those few short pages lay all there was to know about a particular subject. Whether I was looking up the history of Spain, Snow Owls, or Saturn, there was more than enough to get me going on my report.
World Book Encyclopedias were so standard in our school district that it was years before I even heard of the Encyclopedia Britannica or any of the others. When I did, I was even more fascinated. Comparing books on the same topic side by side is hard because they are all different lengths, have different writing styles, and different information. Comparing encyclopedia articles, on the other hand, is relatively easy. Usually, they are about the same length and hit most of the same key points. The differing ways they are written, the extra little details in them, and the angle the particular author takes come through much more strongly.
Nowadays, I mostly look at the World Book Encyclopedia online. It is nice to have all of the extra convenience of being able to surf articles on the Internet. Free online encyclopedias like Wikipedia can be pretty good, but they are not always consistently written. It is worth it to pay the extra fee for a well written, reliable reference that will tell you a little bit about just about everything. Even so, sometimes I miss the sheer massiveness and impressiveness of the print World Book Encyclopedia that would take up a whole shelf at school. It really was quite a sensation to pour through such a massive source of knowledge.