Britannica Ends Its Famous Print Run

World | March 14, 2012, Wednesday // 11:41
Bulgaria: Britannica Ends Its Famous Print Run A set of the Encyclopaedia Britannica on the shelves of the New York Public Library. Photo by ?ngel Franco/The New York Times

Reference book firm Encyclopaedia Britannica has decided to no longer publish its famous 32-volume print edition amid fierce competition from websites.

“A momentous event? In some ways, yes; the set is, after all, nearly a quarter of a millennium old. But in a larger sense this is just another historical data point in the evolution of human knowledge,” reads an official announcement of the company, published on its website.

”For one thing, the encyclopedia will live on—in bigger, more numerous, and more vibrant digital forms. And just as important, we the publishers are poised, in the digital era, to serve knowledge and learning in new ways that go way beyond reference works. In fact, we already do.”

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

"We knew this was going to come."

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"A printed encyclopaedia is obsolete the minute that you print it," Cauz said.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

The decision by Encyclopaedia Britannica to stop its print edition puts an end to a 244-year tradition.

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Tags: websites, edition, online, print, Encyclopaedia Britannica, UK
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