However, not everyone considers Wikipedia a beacon of progress. In recent months, a spate of inaccurate entries have garnered headlines and raised questions about the encyclopedia's integrity. Articles about high-profile and controversial figures, such as President Bush and Sen. John Kerry, have become the target of vandals. Finally, some argue that a highly successful and free Wikipedia could undermine established providers of reference materials and threaten their viability. If these encyclopedias falter, the theory goes, society could wind up with a set of less-than-accurate reference books.
Consider it an irony that the word encyclopedia derives from a classical Greek phrase meaning "a general or well-rounded education." Although such reference sets have existed since the sixteenth century - and were once viewed as essential learning and study guides - they have slowly evolved into a source for quick information. Moreover, the advent of CDs, DVDs, broadband, and the web has moved the emphasis away from print and toward pixels. Let's face it: The luster of owning a $1,500 set of encyclopedias isn't what it once was - especially when you consider that they're obsolete as quickly as they are printed.