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Too many encyclopedias? Not enough friends?

One of my favorite people, Barry Wellman, was quoted in widely circulated reports a week or two ago about a study’s findings that a quarter of Americans have no one in whom to confide. Barry was the editor for Internet community articles in the Encyclopedia of Community, and he’s also contributed to the Berkshire Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interaction. He is someone I turn to regularly for advice on all kinds of topics connected with technology and social media. I guess it’s appropriate that our friendship and collaboration has developed online: we’ve never met in person.

I don’t think Barry really thinks online relationships can make up for the fact that people don’t have anyone to confide in. There’s quality, as well as quantity, in our human connections. He asked today why there are so many encyclopedias–he was asked to write for or edit two just this week–and I’m baffled to explain the economics for big companies like Elsevier. We know they must be making money, and plenty of it, in order to keep doing it. Yet we’ve just heard–via an Out-of-Office responder–that “Marie-Claire Antoine is no longer with Routledge, which is no longer commissioning encyclopedia reference works.” We are still in the midst of projects with Routledge and Marie-Claire has been our main contact, so this is a bit strange. And worrying: contributors to the Encyclopedia of Charismatic and Pentecostal Christianity are still awaiting the free copies due them.

On the other hand, Berkshire continues to develop innovative titles that we believe are really needed, and that offer fresh integration of important subjects. Intimate relationships, for example, a topic that connects closely with our work on community, exploring the personal connections that are our most satisfying and most troublesome bonds. As our catalog puts it, these are the relationships “inspiring great literature and music as well as horrendous crimes. This pioneering intedisciplinary work explores dyadic and aggregate relationships, from parents and children to friends, coworkers, and teammates.”

Dare I ask my friend Barry Wellman to contribute?

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