Death to Encarta – Wikipedia 2.7m vs Encarta 42,000

Microsoft Encarta
Image via Wikipedia

Microsoft have announced the demise of Encarta which will be effective from 31st October 2009. The company  has said this on a FAQ page they have set up explaining the decision;

“Encarta has been a popular product around the world for many years. However, the category of traditional encyclopedias and reference material has changed. People today seek and consume information in considerably different ways than in years past.”

Yes they do.

 I only have to look at the bibliographies produced by students at my school to see that Wikipedia has taken over as the encyclopedia reference source our students go to first. With 2.7 million entries vs 42,000 in Encarta it’s not hard to see why. We try and impress upon our students the need to cross check information but we certainly don’t dissuade them from using it. 

I saw the power of Wikipedia unfold when the American airbus crash landed in the Hudson River. As the incident unfolded the Wikipedia page started taking shape. At that point in time, this method of participatory media was the best source of information about what was happening.  

We have recently made the decision at my school to unsubscribe from Encyclopedia Brittanica. We are retaining our subscription to World Book, but despite our best efforts, find it difficult to get our students to use it as their first port of call. Subscription databases are expensive and from an economic standpoint you have to look at usage vs cost. I’m waiting for the day when these subscription database services wake up and realise that they would be better served offering their services for free. They could move to accepting advertising on their sites to generate income to sustain their costs.    

Thanks to Phil Bradley and Stephen Abrams for alerting me to this in their posts. 

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One Reply to “Death to Encarta – Wikipedia 2.7m vs Encarta 42,000”

  1. I also have noticed the student swing to non-traditional encyclopedias. I have had discussions with students about wikipedia. Some tell me that they have been told it shouldn’t be used but the discussion comes back to always checking the information woth other sources. They all seem to “totally get” the issues with wikipedia and the cross checking (which should always have been done anyway) seems to be happening more because they understand more about how the information is compiled. I agree that Briannica is not a choice most kids make and World Book is being used less. I think it is more that it just isn’t in their conscious. They like the help it gives, for instance, with siting an article, although Wikipedia in simple English also does this.
    I also agree about the power of collaboration when a major event happens. Everyone adding their small piece of news made for a very intantaneous and powerful tool.

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