This week has been particularly exciting though exhausting for me, as me and my team were tasked with organising the launch event for Singapore: The Encyclopedia as well as to ensure that publicity for the colossal tome was forthcoming. I think this must be one of the most monumental projects I have ever undertaken, and I am glad to have a chance to witness history in the making.
In my view, what strikes me as the most important significance of this book is that it piques and stimulates interest amongst Singaporeans in their own country. The more you know about Singapore - the good, bad and ugly side of it - the more you will learn to love it. Sometimes head knowledge does translate to heart knowledge. Of course, familiarity may also breed contempt. ;-)
OK, the specs about the book are impressive - 640 pages, 2500 over entries, 2,400 photographs, maps and illustrations, half a million words, and 3.2 kg (exactly like a new born!). The book has 231 contributors who read like a who's who in Singapore's academic and scholarly circles. It also has a distinguished editorial advisory board led by Professor Tommy Koh.
However, I think the most fascinating aspect of this tome is the collection of all kinds of trivia which you are unlikely to read about. For example, do you know that the Padres were the first Singapore band featured on BBC World Radio? Or that a Singaporean was the first person to put Tamil on the Internet? We also have more than 60 mammals in Singapore, including cute ones like the Dugong and Pink Dolphins..
It will be interesting to see how the responses from the public will be. As it is, there is already talk that we may go into a second print run soon, and that there are quite a few mistakes being spotted so far. Well, I believe encyclopedias should not just be tomes that collect dust, but living and breathing documents that evolve with time. I do hope in future that a web-based or CD Rom version would be in the offing though, as that is the best way to reach the web-savvy masses.
Speaking of which, should we put up an entry on wikipedia about Singapore: The Encyclopedia?