Mar 15, 2012 -- 10:17am

My parents invested in a whole set of Encyclopaedia Britannica books. Enough said?  They introduced me to the books at the age of six and I looked at nearly every picture from books A to Z. A few years later, I began reading A to Z, but realized I couldn't digest this much material easily. The A's were hard enough to get through.  I mean I spent weeks on Africa alone.  More than anything on television or in the newspapers, Encyclopaedia Britannica introduced me to the world.....yes, the world of flags, of countries, of presidents, of black and white grainy pictures, of famous people before 1960. 

In elementary school, my teacher in fourth grade told us to write a paper on anything and draw pictures as illustrations. I had the perfect idea, a story on fish and I had color pictures in the Encyclopaedia of at least fifty fish from sea bass to halibut to tuna.  Funny how I seem to only remember the fish I've had on my plate, but this was my chance to waste lots of time drawing and coloring dozens of fish and tell a little story about the happy fish that grew lonely because all of his buddies were disappearing. More serious and meaty assignments came along from teachers in 5th and 6th grade and I often turned to my Britannica, and between us, I had a hard time using my words in everything I wrote.  The Encyclopaedia information was so well-written, I lifted a bit more than I should have back then. I'm sure the teachers knew because I suspect a number of students writing looked too adult and was similar in style. 

By the time I started high school, I no longer needed the reference books. Part of the problem was the information.  Some of the countries in Africa changed names, more presidents were elected, some of the fish got put on the endangered list, and color began replacing grainy black and white pictures.  My parents had no intention to invest in another set of Encyclopaedia Britannica books....and that lack of updating the books was part of the problem that eventually led to the Chicago based company shelving the books for Online services.

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