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February 1, 2016 BOOKLIST
Find more Wikitannica?
Visitors to Britannica Online will find something added to the article pages retrieved when they search. In addition to the traditional save, print, e-mail, and cite buttons there are now Comments or Suggestions and Share This Article with Your Readers buttons. The encyclopedia hopes to promote greater participation from its contributors and the scholarly community at large as well as members of the public using the site. A posting on the Britannica blog states, “These efforts not only will improve the scope and quality of Encyclopaedia Britannica, but they’ll also allow expert contributors and readers to supplement this content with their own. The result will be a place with broader and more relevant coverage for information seekers and a welcoming community for scholars, experts, and lay contributors.” Is this most venerable resource turning into a version of Wikipedia?
Tom Panelas, Britannica’s director of corporate communications, explained the new site. It will include the traditional Encyclopaedia Britannica text, which will remain subject to editorial control and verification by the Britannica staff of contributors and editors. But “it will be easier than ever for both our expert contributors and members of the public to submit suggestions for changes in the encyclopedia and for contributors to update their own articles. All submitted material will be checked, but editors will be standing by to handle it promptly.” Such material will be then designated as “Britannica checked.” Panelas also notes that Britannica will begin to introduce article-history pages listing the date of the last update and the names of people who contributed to it. This will include the names of members of the public who submitted suggestions.
Other content will come from expert contributors and the general public. Panelas says, “While we expect the materials in these areas will be of generally good quality and will supplement the encyclopedia nicely, our editors won’t verify it, so we want to have a way to express the difference in our confidence level between these materials and the encyclopedia, which will continue to be edited with the same rigor it’s always had.” Britannica plans to offer incentives to those contributing to the site. Panelas states, “Members of our community of scholars, which will be regular Britannica contributors and others we add over time, will have the ability to be paid for items they post in their area of the site. We will have a point system for these folks in which the quality and value of their work will be ranked by peers. We will also assign points based on the volume of traffic a contributor’s work attracts. They’ll be paid based on that point system.”
Britannica is changing with the times while striving to maintain its standards. As a post on Wired states, “Britannica is going halfway to where it’s never gone before: it is opening up its site to the crowd, but keeping the gates up against the barbarians as far as the official version of the publication is concerned.” And, yes, there will be a new print version every two years for those who love turning the pages of those oversize tomes.
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