"The U.S. Census Bureau is terminating the collection of data for the Statistical Compendia program effective October 1, 2011. The Statistical Compendium program is comprised of the Statistical Abstract of the United States and its supplemental products - - the State and Metropolitan Area Data Book and the County and City Data Book. In preparation for the Fiscal Year 2012 (FY 2012) budget, the Census Bureau did a comprehensive review of a number of programs and had to make difficult proposals to terminate and reduce a number of existing programs in order to acquire funds for higher priority programs. The decision to propose the elimination of this program was not made lightly. To access the most current data, please refer to the organizations cited in the source notes for each table of the Statistical Abstract."Last summer I thought this was an unwise move, penny-wise and pound-foolish, and while I still think it would be money well spent -- the cost was only $2.9 M/yr, or less than 4 soldier-years in Iraq, per year -- it's not a disaster. I have been noticing lately how easy it has become to get meaningful data from other US government agencies, such as the Departments of Labor, Commerce, Transportation, the EIA, the Federal Reserve, and the Census Bureau (at least). They have decades of well-organized data you can download right into a spreadsheet, interactive plotting, etc. It's similar with climate data from NOAA, NASA, etc -- you can keep up with the latest monthly (sometimes weekly) data on dozens of quantities, and essentially become an amateur climatologist (one thing I think is fueling the climate debate, as people [including me] read too much into every monthly up or down). These agencies are doing great jobs at making their data timely and accessible, and I expect this will only increase over this decade as documents, books, and sites become alive and carry tables and charts that are automatically updated with new data is available or old data is revised.
It's becoming increasingly difficult to remember how anyone got by before the Web was invented. I was telling my nephew that I grew up before anyone had computers in their homes, and I felt like a dinosaur. He doesn't even understand that you used to have to wait for a television program to come on at a certain day and time before you could watch it, instead of just calling it up from the DVR.