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Encyclopaedia Britannica Ends Its Famous Print Edition

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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’

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“A printed encyclopaedia is obsolete the minute that you print it,” Mr Cauz said.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 then 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 encyclopedia work focusing most of its energies in recent years on educational software.

~Source: BBC News


Written by MattAndJojang

March 14, 2012 at 7:24 pm

6 Responses

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  1. Reblogged this on Maryland Women of Worship and commented:
    Not sure how much I like this idea. Although I am a grad student who loves accessing reading material on electronic and digital devices like Kindle sometimes I prefer reading it in a book, especially when it comes to reference matter. I like manually browsing the text and have found that electronic browsing is somewhat disengaging and leads to scatterbrain wandering. Thus, it takes me to places where I would not have gone, which is not what a student needs while performing research.


    March 14, 2012 at 7:46 pm

  2. To add to what wstreet said above, the truth is that The Cloud and all it contains is not permanent. Hackers, electromagnetic pulses, every sort of server glitch is out there, lurking. I certainly hope they’re backing things up!

    And I also agree that, for research, there are real advantages to real books. Much of the historical record is not on the web – I learned, doing genealogical research, that after a certain point you have to go to the documents themselves.

    That said, I’ve found two new search engines that I’m much happier with than Google. One is called DuckDuckGo and the other is ixquick. Both provided higher-quality results than Google – in the sense of less to sort through that wasn’t relevant. Interesting.

    Still, I’m sad to see these go. Encyclopedias were a big part of my growing up. They made great reading on a rainy day.


    March 15, 2012 at 9:57 am

  3. HI, Wilhelmina! Thank you for visiting our blog and commenting…

    I first heard this news while watching BBC yesterday. I was saddened when I heard this development because of personal reasons. One of the most exciting days of my childhood was when the complete set of Encyclopaedia Britannica was delivered to our house. (This was in the late 60s, and in fact the photo of this post is the exact version of the Encyclopaedia Britannica that we have). The Encyclopaedia Britannica gave me hours of reading pleasure when I was kid.

    This development also made me realize that all our reading and education will eventually be in digital form – there is a great possibility that it will be in our lifetime. In our country (I’m from the Philippines), one of our largest universities is piloting a program to turn their conventional classrooms into digital classrooms. Instead of students carrying notebooks and textbooks, the students will now just carry a tablet, which will contain all their notes and textbooks. Instead of teachers writing on blackboards, they will be writing on electronic boards. They’re building the infrastructure required (like increasing the bandwidth of their internet connection, among other things) to accommodate the entire student population once the program is fully implemented. They’re planning to go live in a year or two.

    There was a time that I preferred reading real paper books. But a few years back I had to do all my reading electronically, because I developed an allergy for paper products! My brother-in-law says it may not be the paper but the printer ink in books. Anyway, since then I’ve been doing all my reading on electronic devices – on my laptop, eReader, & smartphone – and I’m beginning to enjoy it… πŸ™‚

    ~ Matt


    March 15, 2012 at 10:00 am

  4. I’m glad that you feel the same way about encyclopaedias, Linda, the way I do. When I told Jojang I read encyclopaedias for pleasure, she laughed, and said; “Oh, my! So who reads encyclopaedias for pleasure?” I answered; “I do. You should try it one of these days. You might like it.” πŸ™‚

    Seriously speaking, I’m saddened to see the printed Encyclopaedia Britannica go, too. The Encyclopaedia Britannica gave me hours of reading pleasure when I was a kid.

    I’m having concerns lately about Google. I read in Sylvia’s blog, which is one of the blogs that I frequently visit (, that Google and the other internet companies they own are beginning to censor information in countries that don’t allow free speech. Because of this she just recently transferred her blog from Blogger (which Google owns) to WordPress, which explicitly made a stand not to censor the blogs they host.

    Of course, there is the issue of better performance. Thanks for pointing out DuckDuckGo and ixquick. I’ll give it a try.

    ~ Matt


    March 15, 2012 at 10:33 am

  5. “Real” books provide a distinct experience that cannot be derived from the digital version. I feel saddened by the thought that they might become extinct. Ironically, though, I’m genuinely surprised to learn of this news because I thought Encyclopaedia Britannica had stopped printing its encyclopedias more than a decade ago.


    March 16, 2012 at 5:04 pm

  6. I agree, SmilingPockets. The “feel” of real paper books can’t be replicated by digital books. However, in my opinion, we’re moving to an era where paper books will be obsolete, where in the near future all of our reading materials will be in digital form.

    I myself am doing all my reading in my electronic devices, having developed allergy to paper products. (I get asthma attacks whenever I read paper books). I’m getting the hang of it, and, frankly, beginning to enjoy it… πŸ™‚

    ~ Matt


    March 16, 2012 at 7:24 pm

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