For people devoted to books and information retrieval, these are strange days. Quiet brooks have turned into raging rivers. Amazon started as a bookstore. It is becoming the general market place.
Google is not a big-time player in the search and retrieval business. Google sets the rules of the game. Increasingly, people live in the Googlezone.
Wikipedia is the third surprise – a collaborative, open-ended encyclopedia written by its readers – what a CRAZY idea! – I can give you ten good reasons why such a thing would never work. Still, I find myself turning more and more often to Wikipedia – the de facto standard of everyday lexical information on the web.
For instance on BOBCATSSS.
We may certainly discuss quality. But quality has many dimensions. Wikipedia users appreciate the nice price (zero euros per session), the ease of access (no passwords), the multiple languages (100+) and the rapid updating. For most purposes and users, these qualities compensate for the uneven authority of the articles and the imbalances in the encyclopedia as a whole.
It may be strong on ICT and pop culture and weak on classical scholarship. But the classical scholars will manage – as the bibliography to the article Classics in Wikipedia will confirm.