Posted by Nicci | Posted in Books and Magazines, Education, Way Back Wednesday | Posted on 25-08-2010
I have a little secret to share with you: I used to be a librarian. Shhhh! One of the sad facts for a bibliophile like me is that books seem to be slowly disappearing. Kindles, eReaders, e-books, and more are taking the place of actual, physical, paper and ink books. This is especially true when it comes to encyclopedia sets. Huge, multivolume sets have been replaced by online versions. Remember plagiarizing World Book for all of your grade school reports? Now copying the encyclopedia verbatim has become much easier by using the cut and paste features of your favorite word processing system.
My nostalgia for old-school learning brings us today’s Way Back Wednesday infomercial from 1992–the year I graduated from high school with no help from the internet whatsoever. This advertisement for Encyclopedia Britannica is a bizarre conversation between a young man in Sally Jesse glasses, a voice over man who is not James Earl Jones, and a tv-watching child, whom I suspect is Annie Potts of Designing Women fame:
Now, this infomercial is intended to poke fun at televsion marketing, but it completely fails to sell the product in doing so. There are no benefits listed, no examples provided–other than to show you that elephants are listed in volume 4, and that they are endangered. Really, this commercial gives absolutely no incentive to buy the encyclopedia.
Compare the vintage Encyclopedia Britannica to a commercial for the all new Hooked on Phonics Learn to Read system. This commercial outlines the educational benefits of the program, details what is included with the system, and uses interactivity to engage emerging readers.
Maybe the next generation of readers will revive the book. Paper pages — how very retro-chic!
*Ten points to you if you got the Animal House reference in the title.