On 20 January 2012 13:18, wiki <doc.wikipedia(a)ntlworld.com> wrote:
Ultimately, a paper encyclopedia says "This article is written by a
qualified person (you can see his name) he has been chosen by an expert
panel (here are their names) and his work will be reviewed by them. All of
the above named people, and this encyclopedia, are willing to stake their
professional reputations on the accuracy of this work and that we have
credible quality control - whether that's enough for you, is up to you"
This is the interesting (if now quite old) debate about traditional
encyclopedias. Yes, Britannica or any other old-style commercial
encyclopedia is keen to tell you about expert authors. Less keen, for
example, to tell you when the article was written, as opposed to who wrote
it; the expert not having a crystal ball rather affects the value of an
article (say in science or technology). This was the starting point of
Harvey Einbinder's "The Myth of the Britannica" (1964), which even
Wikipedians might find rather unfair to EB (though the detail is
fascinating - seems Einstein got the same $80 as anyone else for an article
which allowed them to promote the work using his name ... wonder how hard
he worked to write it).
One should note that the market works to favour encyclopedias with a
business model that allows later editions in which revision is kept to
essentials. That's how it is: initiating a new high-quality print
encyclopedia requires money up front, and the investment is paid off by
having later editions that require substantially less writing bought in,
rather than done in-house. I don't know this for a fact, but I doubt
encyclopedia writers get a contract in which they are guaranteed the right
to revise their work for each edition - implausible given the way
publishers' minds works.
Anyway we know that (for English speakers at least) market forces, given
the barriers to entry, did not really drive quality right up. Einbinder
pretty much gets that correct, as I recall.