Encyclopedia of China update to go online in 2018

By Yang Yang | China Daily | Updated: 2017-05-19 07:34

The online version of Encyclopedia of China (third edition), which will be released next year, is not aimed at Wikipedia, as many people assume, says Yang Muzhi, executive editor-in-chief of the encyclopedia.

"Actually, we learned from Wikipedia's advanced experience, such as giving links of the references at the bottom of the web page of an entry. But as an authoritative encyclopedia, the Encyclopedia of China is not an open platform on which any person online can add or delete content," he says.

Yang says in the digital era, readers prefer online versions of printed books because of convenience. The encyclopedia is divided into many volumes and heavy to carry around.

In 2012, the 249-year-old Encyclopaedia Britannica announced the end of its printed version and said it would focus on building digital versions. Now, its online version contains more than 150,000 entries.

Launched in 2001, Wikipedia already has 790,000 entries in more than 280 languages, which "is an amazing work over such a short time", Yang says.

Encyclopedia of China update to go online in 2018

In a media article years ago, Yang wrote that China did not have a modern encyclopedia that presented the overall look of the country's culture or summarized and analyzed existing knowledge systems of natural science and social science of the era. That changed in 1993, when the first edition of the 74-volume Encyclopedia of China came out after 15 years of work by more than 20,600 scholars.

In 2007, the 32-volume second edition came out, revised and recompiled based on the nearly 78,000 entries in the first edition.

Starting in 2011, so far more than 20,000 scholars from higher education institutions and research institutions have joined in the building of the third edition of the encyclopedia.

The printed version will be released after the online version.

"The whole project will involve more than 40,000 scholars in the end," says Liu Hang, deputy editor-in-chief at Encyclopedia of China Publishing House.

Yang says authority is the biggest difference between Encyclopedia of China and Wikipedia.

"Encyclopedia of China is not about providing trendy information for common readers, such as how to eat some vegetables or the effect of a medicine. In that case, people can search Baidu Encyclopedia. We provide systematic academic knowledge - history, the present and the future of disciplines and also interdisciplinary development. It is an advanced reference tool," he says.

"We invite the most notable scholars in their fields to lead the work of building the knowledge systems based on their understanding of the disciplines."

The introduction of the scholars will appear at the end of each entry.

"With enough funding, we would also like to invite Nobel winners in natural sciences to write entries about the award-winning work," Yang says.

Entries like Brexit will not be included in the book because it just happened without an established conclusion.

The online version of the third edition will first come out with more than 300,000 entries according to the plan.

"The online version will form an entry bank for the printed version, which will include more than 60,000 entries," Yang says.

But libraries and research institutions may want to buy the printed version because there are situations when people cannot use the internet or don't have access to a digital tool, Liu says.

Besides, there are people who prefer to read paper books or who cannot read on a screen.

The design concepts for the two versions are also different.

The printed version will be divided into volumes according to disciplines, so that literature, history, philosophy and sociology are compiled in one big category. Before each discipline will be a long entry written by noted scholars of the discipline, so as to give readers a clear idea of it.

"The length can be 30,000 characters for each," Liu says.

But online, readers prefer a shorter length, like less than 1,500 characters, so most entries for the online version will be much shorter and easy to get in a relatively short time.

 Encyclopedia of China update to go online in 2018

Encyclopedia of China (second edition) is on display at a Beijing book fair. Zhang Kaixin / For China Daily

(China Daily 05/19/2017 page20)

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