Ismail Serageldin

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Ismail Serageldin opening Wikimania 2008

Ismail Serageldin (born 1944 in Giza, Egypt) is a professor of economics and director of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina.


  • I do believe that encyclopedias are dead as dodos in the old fashioned way. Let me just go back, because earlier around I was interviewed and I said: The book will always be with us. Books - we used to read in scrolls and then they got invented the codex which is basically the form of the book. It has not been improved on. It's like scissors, like a spoon, and like a hammer. It's technology that's perfect in itself and will remain very good. But: What about the content inside of it? Now, there are books that you read for information. And there what you want to do is how to get the information. And it is infinitely more efficient, of higher quality, to use digital sources rather than the published sources for references. So dictionaries and encyclopedias are not going to be done in this very ponderous way of having old books that by the time they come out the information in them is obsolete. Second, you have to search in all of these and open the pages and then you go to an index and come back whereas you can type to search in. [...] But if you want to hold in your hand a slim volume, nicely bound, of the love sonnets of Shakespeare or historical romans, that's a different story. There is the book as artifact, there is the joy in holding the book. And there is an efficiency in the book that you can carry with you in different ways. But I think that the encyclopedias and the dictionaries really are providing a service. And that service can be provided so much more efficiently online that they are bound to change. And if they don't change themselves and go online themselves … I mean, the old providers, like Britannica, will go online, will provide it, and will try to, in fact, compete with the model that Wikipedia pioneered.
    • Wikimania 2008 press conference 0'33 (August 2008).

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