ref•er•ence pub•lish•ing n :industry segment faced with dramatic change
Pointing out a discrepancy, Panelas says Encyclopaedia Britannica wants people to understand each source and what it does. “People frequently compare Wikipedia to Britannica, but a work like Britannica, which is written by experts and scholars, and rigorously edited and fact-checked, has little in common with Wikipedia. This is somewhat contentious, but should become clearer in time.”
Merriam-Webster saw the potential in Wikipedia’s interactive model and launched its own user-contributed “Open Dictionary,” where visitors can submit entries that aren’t already in the company’s online dictionary, such as “frindle” (said to be another word for a pen) and “manky” (said to mean bad, inferior).
Big Info, Small Spaces
Panelas says that very clear right now is the desire for people to have information at their fingertips—a trend that reference publishers are working to embrace.
To do so, Britannica is more frequently publishing information in various ways—via cell phones, wireless devices, handheld devices, etc. “We’ll be on your iPod soon,” he says. “You can now settle arguments in a restaurant or get answers when you’re in a cab. Some people still think of the Britannica as this big set of books, but we are fitting into smaller and smaller spaces, and reaching people wherever they need us.”
World Book and Merriam-Webster are on the same page—or screen, rather.
“One major trend that we continue to watch is which end-user technologies will offer viable opportunities for us to present our product on, because we need to make our content accessible over whatever device our audience most naturally uses, whether it’s iPods or communication devices that also are capable of information delivery,” says Kobasa.
World Book also is aware of a backlash to data overload. Kobasa says there was a time when “look it up” meant referencing an encyclopedia or dictionary. That is now being subsumed by “go search for it,” by typing a query into a search engine.