Encyclopaedia Britannica ends its famous print edition


Encyclopaedia Britannica ends print run

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After 244 years reference book firm Encyclopaedia Britannica has decided to stop publishing its famous and weighty 32-volume print edition.

It will now focus on digital expansion amid rising competition from websites such as Wikipedia.

The firm, which used to sell its encyclopaedias door-to-door, now generates almost 85% its revenue from online sales.

It recently launched a digital version of its encyclopaedias for tablet PCs.

"The sales of printed encyclopaedias have been negligible for several years," said Jorge Cauz president of Encyclopaedia Britannica.

"We knew this was going to come."

'A lot faster'

Start Quote

In many instances doing a keyword search in an online resource is simply a lot faster then standing up looking at the index of the Britannica and then finding the appropriate volume”

End Quote Richard Reyes-Gavilan Brooklyn Public Library

Companies across the globe have been trying to boost their online presence in a bid to cash in on the fast-growing market.

Various newspapers, magazines and even book publishers have been coming up with online versions of their products as an increasing number of readers access information on high-tech gadgets such as tablet PCs and smartphones.

Britannica said while its decision to focus on online editions was influenced by the shift in consumer pattern, the ability to update content at a short notice also played a big role.

"A printed encyclopaedia is obsolete the minute that you print it," Mr Cauz said.

"Whereas our online edition is updated continuously."

At the same time, frequent users of the encyclopaedia said they preferred using the online version more than the print one.

"We have to answer thousands of questions each month through chat, through telephone, through email and we have to do that as quickly as humanly possible," Richard Reyes-Gavilan of Brooklyn Public Library told the BBC.

"In many instances doing a keyword search in an online resource is simply a lot faster than standing up looking at the index of the Britannica and then finding the appropriate volume."

Encyclopaedia Britannica, the company, has largely moved away from its encyclopaedia work focusing most of its energies in recent years on educational software.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    Online resources are great for quick research, but for academic research they are completely useless. Here today and gone tomorrow comes to mind. For academic papers you need a quotable source, one someone can check when they read your paper and know that it is the same information that you had seen when you quoted it. Electronic editions are not much better as there would be too many of them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    Think how much historians rely on the printed word and manuscripts to research our past. When everything is on-line and continuously updated or deleted, researching the late 21st century and beyond will become virtually impossible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    Sad news, but inevitable. I have just thrown away dozens of reference books safe in the knowledge that if I ever need their contained knowledge I will be able to find it online. The price of progress I'm afraid.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    I think this will mean the beginning of the end of EB. Already several years ago, a sample of scientific entries showed that EB was not much more accurate or complete than Wikipedia, and Wikipedia improves more rapidly. Information wants to be free. Brittanica could finish in honour with a self-referencing work: The Rise and the Fall of Encyclopædia Brittanica.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    I think is sad, I learnt more things by accident when looking for homework in the encyclopedia, there was always something more interesting to read in the next page or a catching picture. Now you just type and that's all.


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