Microsoft has decided to stop publishing the Microsoft Encarta encyclopedia. This includes the software that accompanied certain Microsoft software packages as well as the Encarta web site. You can get more information about the announcement at the Encarta FAQ page.
The Encarta website will be discontinued on October 31, 2009. Those that have the Student Edition and Premium software will be supported for the next three years.
The New York Times thinks that Wikipedia put the shank in Encarta. Well, maybe but I think it was more that the users made a decision on how they wanted to access information. Encarta became a tree in the forest that no one could see except those that knew that path. It was a question of did you have time or was it worth your effort to get what you needed.
I will be honest, there were times that I actually used Encarta on my computer but I had to think about it or just glance at the icon. The times that I did use it the information that I wanted was hit or miss, generally miss.
For static information it was ok. But very little in our modern world is static. I could connect to the Encarta web site for more information but having gone through the program it was easier for me to conduct my our search strategy with a variety of search engines, ProQuest and other online resources.
But something about this bothers me. The constriction of verified resources that are now locked behind paid walls of access. There is no need to have a paper encyclopedia anymore - a good one cost a good chunk of change. When a fairly inexpensive software encyclopedia (to purchase, not produce) goes away then how does the average person or parent get access to information?
Yes, some folks do pay for online subscriptions but there are still folks on dial-up connections or schools that need CD/DVD access. As much as we want them to some folks will not come to the library. Let's not forget those students that wait until the last possible moment to write their papers.
I guess I hate to see a loss of affordable resources.