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"A printed encyclopaedia is obsolete the minute that you print it," Mr Cauz said.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 43.

    I was brought up reading books and it took time to getting used to reading from the screen. But I find there are huge benefits from it being digital. Those brought up on digital would never understand what the fuss is about.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    I sincerely hope that there will be at least some printed versions of the Brittanica - printed versions will become invaluable in future, since the disinformation agents of this world - amongst them Holocaust denial agents - do not refrain from changing any fact on the Internet, I know this for certain from Frankfurt am Main. Keep up the Standard for Freedom.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    To all the people complaining that you don't find random extra information when looking online - have you ever used Wikipedia? how many times does that lead you off on random tangents by clicking links you think look interesting! also with the references to other webpages and original articles it is accurate; and Google scholar yields way more info than Britannica ever could! all from your sofa.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    There is no reason not to know anything at the moment with the interweb - Unfortunately, every internet provider of every website of every company you want to look at, know what you are doing and will use your information to attack you with advertisements for their tawdry products. We have a choice - Stick to the books or move to global knowledge (both ways).

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    Some dreadful English in this article.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Very sad, another case of copy and paste for homework instead of turning the pages, learning to read and understanding how to convert to your own words to show you understand.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    I learnt far more about the world through reading Brittanica at the local library than I ever did at school. The end of an era.

  • 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 35.

    Several times, when flicking through the appropriate volume of the printed work in order to find the reference I wanted, my eye has been caught by another entry which looked fascinating. So, on the downside, I took 15 minutes to get the information I wanted, but the big upside was learning something else besides.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

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

    Rising competition?! Sorry but the competition was rising years ago, now it's soaring out of reach. In Wikipedia's infancy I remember Britannica taking a rather snooty view that on-line sources just weren't in the same league so were not a threat, now they have paid the price; that is the real shame

  • 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.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    The one thing you don't get with digital versions of encyclopaedias are the wonderful arbitrary words on the spines. I remember as a kid looking at the encyclopaedia shelf (ours was not Britannica) and being enchanted by imagining Conifer - Ear Diseases and the like. I hope this, often overlooked, aspect will be provided in the future by digital versions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    I echo the sentiments of 15. SNandaKumar. I too spent many happy hours in the school library reading random pages of the EB. My friend saved a set of the EB that was being dumped in a skip at a school. I love browsing through the volumes reading facts about people, places and events I know nothing about. Googling on line is just not the same.

  • Comment number 30.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    It's a pity it seems to be a question of one or the other. Both, I would have thought, have their place, though admittedly, the price of the paper version is a bit off putting. (I paid a quarter of my annual salary for mine, many many years ago). I'll hang on to it, as it is still used on a regular basis.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    17. stevdk

    I agree one all but your opening point.

    There was a survey carried out a couple of years ago, where they checked the accuracies of both EB and Wikki.

    Wikki had fewer inaccuracies, percentage wise than EB. Perhaps being open source, inaccuracies are quickly spotted and corrected.

    However it does leave it self open to fictitious entries, which some people will believe as fact.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    While I don't have a printed set or EB, I do have a number of reference books from my childhood and some printed in the early 1900's - it's often fun to look at an article to see how our perception and knowledge has changed over the years. I use the internet like most for all my research especially when working away - the Excess airline baggage cost for the printed EB isn't worth thinking about

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Unfortunately, those of us that live in places where the Internet is iffy at best will now not have access to a newer edition of EB. I live 50 miles from a town over 1,500, my village has only 128 but does have a public library. It cannot support Internet. And I live in a theoretical 1st world country (the USA). Places more isolated than this are just out of luck. No encyclopaedias for you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    "A printed encyclopaedia is obsolete the minute that you print it," states Mr Cauz . I think he meant 'obsolescent'. One expects Brittanica's people to use the correct words:

    - obsolete - no longer produced, no longer used.
    - obsolescent - no longer produced, still in use.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Encyclopedia Britannica also sells an abbreviated encyclopedia on DVD-ROM for installation on your computer, their "2012 Ultimate Edition." Their DVD-ROM does NOT contain all the content of their printed edition. The DVD-ROM is much cheaper at approximately $36 though. Unfortunately, the quality of their product is much less than the now defunct Microsoft Encarta Reference Suite.


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