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"A printed encyclopaedia is obsolete the minute that you print it," Mr Cauz said.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
    0

    Comment number 83.

    This is not the first time that EB has decided to stop print production. It did so in 1997, disbanding first the door-to-door sales force, then,in 1998, the schools and library rep team.It also ended the contracts of its European distributors.I was recruited in 2001 to relaunch a revised print edition and sales went up year-on-year until 2006 when it started a steady decline.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 82.

    saves lots of trees....

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 81.

    It's redundant now. Ed Balls knows everything.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 80.

    @Waz #76

    You bring up an interesting point. Schools, universities etc don't allow Wikipedia to be used as a source in academic papers. Students might need to subscribe to the likes of EB online, or educational establishments might need to get with the times, stop using outdated business models, accept that the printed media is dead, and allow "My mate Dave down the pub" as a valid source.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 79.

    Once upon a time, the oral tradition of knowledge bowed to the printing press. Today, the print tradition bows to the internet. With a name like Britannica and a run of 244 years, one of last remnants of the great British Empire turns its last page.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 78.

    I think the twin fixed ideas that 'this is progress' and 'will save time' need challenging. Change is not progress and can often be retrograde; 'Time saved' could be valuable, but what have we done with all the previous 'times saved' or is it just lost anyway? Since we live our lives in various processes, the value of those processes are eroded. Soon we will not need to get out of bed.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 77.

    The old adage "Knowledge is Power" still holds true and now a good all round knowledge of the world and everything in it is no longer only attainable by the privileged few. In the long term I believe this will do more to bridge the wealth gap than the combined efforts of governments and charities.

  • rate this
    0

    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
    +2

    Comment number 75.

    CarmeloReyes
    "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"

    That is always fun, but information being online doesn't stop that! Have you never been looking up a point on wikipedia and clicked on a link, then suddenly it's an hour later and you're researching socratic arguments?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 74.

    I've never understood the name "Encyclopaedia Britannica". We had a copy in the school library and, when I looked up "oil" it told me nothing about oil and every minuscule detail about the American petroleum industry. I've not bothered with it since.

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 73.

    A real shame. My 1974 copy is still a thousand times more useful than Wikipedia, which is frankly junk.

  • rate this
    +1

    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
    +1

    Comment number 71.

    16. Graphis wrote: How is this not progress?

    It is progress *only* in the amount of time it takes to find a "fact".

    Back in the day, at a monastery or a library, you encountered people with whom you could discuss your search, and they would frequently be able to help you deepen and broaden your knowledge.

    It is not enough merely to collect facts; they need interpretation and context.

  • rate this
    0

    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
    -1

    Comment number 69.

    Progress maybe, with reference to post number 16. quite right 500 years ago you would have tramped across the world but would have probably spoken to the person that was actually doing what you were interested in. 50 years ago the people in the library would be there to help and would point you at other works. now you search and results can be interesting at best

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 68.

    It's undeniable that EB holds an iconic status in many of our lives and'll be sadly missed (even inspiring songs like "Drunk Without Drinking" by Buck 65). Also sad is that people think a site that anyone can edit is viable replacement for research. Common today that people just don't understand quality, they simply want "free".

    The earth is flat...give me 10 mins and check wikipedia for proof.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 67.

    Says Balloon Rake (#50): "I blame the parents for letting their kids read drivel like Harry Potter over non-fiction books, a sad day indeed."

    Oh? Are the Harry Potter books full of run-on sentences?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 66.

    Now everybody sits alone in their silo, surfing, Sad

    (Wikipedia is free? They keep asking me for donations)

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 65.

    If they want to survive, maybe make access available FREE to all and have some small adverts on the site. Facebook has billions in revenue from small adverts in the corner and global users.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 64.

    EB was a fundamental and cherished part of my learning experience growing up and the much-read volumes still take pride of place in my parents' home. Nearly 20 years on, I may have given in to technology and the Internet like many but still enjoy the weight, feel and information in the book version - good luck EB, I hope this is a decision that works for you and keeps people learning!

 

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