'It takes forever!' Teens react to encyclopedias

Remember life before Google and Wikipedia? Watch as teens attempt to use a set of old-school encyclopedias with varying results.

Bonnie Burton
Journalist Bonnie Burton writes about movies, TV shows, comics, science and robots. She is the author of the books Live or Die: Survival Hacks, Wizarding World: Movie Magic Amazing Artifacts, The Star Wars Craft Book, Girls Against Girls, Draw Star Wars, Planets in Peril and more! E-mail Bonnie.
Bonnie Burton
2 min read

"It was Google back in the day!" Tom, age 19, said. "It was the worst of times." Video screenshot by Bonnie Burton/CNET

Spending hours in the school library pouring over volume after volume of encyclopedias to research everything from apples to zebras for homework is something a new generation of kids and teens may never have the joy of doing.

With the Internet, all you need to do is type in a key word in the search box and find out everything you've ever wanted to know about, well...just about everything.

In this latest "Teens React" video from new-media production duo Benny and Rafi Fine (also known as The Fine Brothers), we see today's teens try to figure out the quickest way to look up their favorite subjects with physical World Book Encyclopedia books.

"We are always taking a hard look at how life was in the past in coming up with interesting subject matter for our various series," said Benny Fine in an interview, "and remembering how much I used to want an encyclopedia as a kid, made me realize wanting a set is very unlikely for teens today and that conversation would be interesting. And it was."

The teens were asked to look up a chapter about reading, and a few of them didn't realize the encyclopedias were organized by letter, let alone that the information they were looking for would be under the letter R.

"It takes forever, this is annoying," Alix, age 19, said in the video. "This is why I don't use these."

Next up, the teens were told look up subjects they were interested in to see if the encyclopedias had information on them. While one girl was excited to find out more about unicorns, another teen was shocked that there was zilch about YouTube.

Considering that the set of World Book Encyclopedia books they were using were published in 2005, it's no surprise that YouTube didn't get a mention. The teens were more than peeved when learning that this set didn't have anything new listed in them that happened after 2005.

"The Internet saves my life whenever I have to write a paper," Rachel, age 19, said. Video screenshot by Bonnie Burton/CNET

"That's what bugs me about books," Adam, age 19, said in the video. "You can't update them!"

While many of the teens use the Internet instead of books to do their research for papers, not everyone believes that's for the best.

"I personally don't trust the Internet," Jeordy, age 18, said in the video. "I don't think it's a foolproof system."

In the end, the teens are confronted with the idea that they might be the last generation of teenagers to read traditional paper books.

"That's so sad!" Becca, age 14, said in the video. "I love books."

"Honestly, my eyes are watering up," Jeordy replied. "That makes me cry. There's something about physically turning the pages, and being able to smell the book, and feel the book, that is definitely not upheld in the digital world."

"Seeing them feel so sad about books one day going obsolete was surprising," said Benny. "It was a moment for some of them realizing just how fast things change even in their own life."