Encyclopedia wins a reprieve

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The Norwegian encyclopedia Store Norske Leksikon had seemed doomed, after its publishers were set to to pull the plug and the state rejected a bailout bid. The longtime source of information about Norway, however, has won a reprieve from a foundation dedicated to freedom of expression and distribution of information.

Many a Norwegian home has a set of "Store Norske" encyclopedias on a bookshelf. PHOTO: Views and News

The foundation Fritt Ord is coming to the rescue of Store Norske, even if only for a year. Its officials apparently couldn’t stand by and watch Store Norske fade away without throwing it a life preserver.

Along with the charitable foundation tied to Norway’s biggest bank, DnB NOR, Fritt Ord is buying some time for Store Norske to find alternative means of survival. Details were sketchy, but newspaper Aftenposten reported that Fritt Ord and the DnB NOR foundation would support Store Norske’s ongoing operations for a year, while it searched for a more permanent means of support.

The two big publishing companies behind Store Norske, Gyldendal and Aschehoug, said they’d suffered too many losses on the encyclopedia. Erik Rudeng, director of Fritt Ord, took issue with the state’s immediate refusal to step in and take over, saying it ran counter to Norwegian cultural politics, which aims to support projects that the market doesn’t.

Rudeng said, however, that Fritt Ord wouldn’t commit to operating the encyclopedia on a permanent basis. It was offering support because “Norway is a quite small language community,” and the foundation wanted to see an encyclopedia in the Norwegian language continue.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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