These are lonely days for encyclopedias. At many school and public libraries, the volumes sit ignored for days on end as information-seeking students and patrons click busily away at nearby computers, sometimes tapping into the very digital services encyclopedia makers now offer the internet generation.

Even in the warmth of a loving home, that set of hard-bound books that once represented the crown tool of a good education now often gets the cold shoulder.

"Sometimes my mom uses it as a coaster," says high school senior Andy Ng


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