The end of an era

By Justin Thirstrup

Pastoral Associate for Outreach


Over the course of human history, advancements in technology have certainly helped to improve our lives.  For many people, some high-tech gadgets have truly become indispensable. I, myself, do not particularly care for electronic devices. I use computers, but mostly for work and research. You will rarely find me on Facebook or any other social media website. I do have a cell phone, but it is certainly not a “smart phone,” and to be honest, I rarely use the thing. I hate texting, and I really do not like having to talk on the phone. I would much rather talk with someone in person. Nevertheless, phones are good for keeping in touch with my family and friends who live far away, so I don’t plan on throwing mine away any time soon.

There is one electronic device, however, that you will never see me buy, and that is an “e-reader.” Call me old-fashioned, but when I read a book, I like to actually hold the pages in my hand. There is something so satisfying about working your way from one cover to the other. As you progress through the book, you can see where you’ve been and what lies ahead. Some books seem like they will never end, and no matter how much you read, it doesn’t look like you’re moving any of the pages. You might even wonder if someone is playing a trick on you and adding more pages in as you go! Other books keep you so captivated, you can believe how many pages you’ve already been through, and you have to go back and take a second look. I’m sure those who use e-readers might have the same feelings, but with a little tablet, you’re limited to only looking at one page at a time. I think one of the reasons I felt so accomplished after reading The Brothers Karamazov is because when I was finished, I was able to look at all of the nearly eight hundred pages and know I had read every single one of them. I proudly added the book to my collection, and it sits in my bookcase like a little trophy—one of the hundreds I’ve accumulated through the years. When I look at my shelves—overflowing with novels, poetry, and various works of non-fiction—I can’t help but be grateful for the gift of knowledge and the ability I have to read and learn. I don’t know if an e-reader can give you the same feeling…

That’s why I was particularly interested to learn last month that almost 250 years after it first appeared, Encyclopedia Britannica will no longer offer print editions of its encyclopedia. Instead, Britannica will focus on its online encyclopedia. In all reality, I can understand why. Advancements in technology have allowed for information to be spread across the globe more easily. Knowledge is changing all the time, and something that is considered a fact at this very moment could prove to be inaccurate by the end of the day. An online encyclopedia allows for real-time editing, and the ability to add new articles whenever they are needed. A printed encyclopedia can only be edited by publishing updated volumes. This has proven to be costly and ineffective in our modern world.

Perhaps, then, this decision marks the end of the traditional encyclopedia. That may not be such a bad thing, but I wonder if other publications are soon to follow… Most people now get their news from the Internet or television broadcasts. Many have questioned if printed newspapers are still a necessity. The Candor is already published in both print and online editions. How ironic is it that this article appears in the online edition?

Thanks to the e-reader, perhaps there will come a day when they no longer publish printed books? I just hope that day doesn’t arrive during my lifetime…

Justin Thirstrup is the Pastoral Associate for Outreach in University Ministry at Benedictine University. He can be reached at (630) 829-6028 or via email at