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Encyclopaedia Britannica Goes to Digital-Only Format

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If you have a set of Encyclopaedia Britannica volumes, you better hold on to them, because chances are you’re never going to see any more of them.

The iconic encyclopedia company announced that they will no longer be printing its 32-volume set, opting instead to go to a online-only format. The company used to release a set of encyclopedias every 2 years, but the 2012 edition will be the final set released in print form.

“For 244 years, the thick volumes of the Encyclopaedia Britannica have stood on the shelves of homes, libraries, and businesses everywhere, a source of enlightenment as well as comfort to their owners and users around the world,” reports [the Encyclopaedia Britannica] blog. “Today we’ve announced that we will discontinue the 32-volume printed edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica when our current inventory is gone.” That inventory includes 4,000 in its warehouse — about 8,000 sets have been sold at $1,395 a pop. (Seven million sets have been published in its storied history.)

With the immense popularity of online encyclopedias, most notably Wikipedia, it was only a matter of time before Britannica threw in the towel on its printed books and went to digital-only. But with a yearly user charge of $70 and only 120,000 articles, as compared to the free Wikipedia’s whopping 3.9 million articles,I just don’t think that Britannica can compete in its current digital format.

On the other hand, these free online encyclopedias aren’t always reliable. This is especially true with Wikipedia, where users can edit the articles on a whim, regardless of whether the information is factual or not. At least with Britannica, you have people who really know their stuff and have done proper research on the articles before posting them. I think if Britannica had more articles with this kind of thorough research and got rid of that user fee, they could easily rival Wikipedia, but we’ll see.

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