Presses Stop Rolling for Encyclopedia Britannica
Is nothing sacred? First Kodak stopped developing cameras, and now Encyclopedia Britannica has shelved its print version after 244 years of publishing.
The publisher of the substantial, gold-embossed tomes says that it cannot compete with the Internet in terms of breadth and timeliness. Whereas the printed Encyclopedia had physical heft and intellectual weight, Wikipedia and other sites are fast, lightweight and portable when accessed on smart phones. By the time an encyclopedia volume is lifted from a shelf, its index consulted, and its pages flipped to find the right entry, a computer, smart phone or tablet user will have found several online sources, many of them fact-checked and reputable enough to be deemed reliable.
We all know that the Web has an advantage over print materials when it comes to timeliness and the sheer volume of information. I completely understand Encyclopedia Britannica's decision to forgo mass production in favor of online distribution. If I believed otherwise, I'd have a recent set of the printed books as a way of demonstrating my devotion to it. But I don't, and neither do a lot of people. Of the 12,000 printed, only 8,000 have been sold, After 244 Years, Encyclopaedia Britannica Stops the Presses according to the New York Times.
(Image source: The Atlantic)
The most recent set, published in 2010, consisted of 32 volumes, weighed 129 pounds, and cost $1,395. Apart from libraries, who has the space or money for an entire set these days? Compare that to the $70 subscribers pay per year to access the Britannica's information on the Web, a task they can do anywhere in the world without being bound to the room that houses the books.
For many of us, the Encyclopedia Britannica was the authority on everything — everything! Many a term paper began with a perusal of the encyclopedia. If you visited a friend's home that had an Encyclopedia Britannica set displayed on its bookcases, you knew that this guy or gal's family was not only well-to-do but also classy and smart. Growing up, I had an encyclopedia, a Funk & Wagnall's set my mother got at the supermarket with cash register receipts. Each week she came home with a new volume until she finally reached Z and we had a full set. The Funk & Wagnall's was wrong in so many ways — the stiff binding, the clunky type, the lackluster illustrations, the wimpy size, and the goofy name (the name!) — but most of all, it just wasn't The Encyclopedia Britannica.
What does the cessation of the print Encyclopedia Britannica mean to you? What are your memories of it? Let me know in the Comments section at the bottom of the page.
In the meantime, here are what others had to say about the end of an era.
Encyclopedia Britannica halts print publication after 244 years from The Guardian of London
After 244 Years, Encyclopaedia Britannica Stops the Presses from The New York Times
Death By Wikipedia: Encyclopedia Britannica Stops Printing form Read Write Web