Wiki vs. EB

I think in the past I mentioned three internet sites that blow me away with their capabilities. They are Google, MapQuest and Wikipedia. It is that last one, Wikipedia, that I’ve wondered about. In my younger days, well before Wikipedia, we only had a set of books called the Encyclopedia Britannica (EB). That was the Wikipedia of my day. As good as it was, there were two downsides with it. One was that it consisted of 32 volumes and secondly, almost no one could afford it. So not having one at home meant a trip to the library; not sitting at home reading a computer screen.


Alas, EB is no longer with us (I previously wrote about its demise.); it has joined so many other obsolete objects in the graveyard of what used to be.   But though it is gone, I still wondered about it. I wonder how the defunct EB compares to Wikipedia. All it took to get the answer was an email to Wikipedia inquiring about that comparison. In short order I had the answer, thanks to Mike Morales of Wikipedia. The information he sent is so interesting that I thought I’d share it with you. You probably have to be old enough to have used the EB to be interested in these facts. Be that as it may, here is what Mike wrote:

There’s actually a page on Wikipedia about its size in relation to good old Encyclopedia Britannica. If Wikipedia were printed in volumes the same size as each EB volume, you would have a set of 2,044 books. Figuring each volume weighs about four pounds, one printed set of Wikipedia would weigh about 8,200 pounds (~3,700 kg).


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In terms of word count per article comparison, the print edition of EB has about 650 words/article on average, while Wikipedia has 590 words/article. There is also an attempt to find a price for Wikipedia, and assuming $0.05/page, that’s about $281,250, for an unbound, loose-leaf set. So, it might just be better to keep to reading Wikipedia on the Internet rather than trying to raise the funds for a print set.

As I suspected, Wikipedia far exceeds the content that was in the EB. The English Wiki version contains over 4 million articles comprised of 2.6 billion words. There rarely is a Wikipedia query that doesn’t return the desired information. Even more awe inspiring it that Wikipedia’s content is still growing as millions of authors add new subjects.

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