Encyclopaedia Britannica ends sale of print edition

obeygiant

macrumors 601
Original poster
Jan 14, 2002
4,018
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totally cool
The Encyclopaedia Britannica -- which has been in print continuously since its beginnings in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1768 -- is finally abandoning print and moving exclusively online.

The current print run of the venerable encyclopedia will be the last, the company announced Wed., March 14, as the publisher continues an evolution into digital products begun over 20 years ago -- and ends the print version after 244 years.

"It’s the oldest continuously printed reference work in the English language,” Tom Panelas, a spokesman for Encyclopaedia Britannica, told FoxNews.com. In that time the company has printed a little over seven million copies, he said.

The Encyclopaedia Britannica began exploring digital publishing in the 1970s, and created its first digital version -- likely the first digital encyclopedia ever -- for LexisNexis users in 1981. That lengthy history of online information may come as a surprise to many.

“Many people know us as the publisher of those big multivolume encyclopedias that have been a source of joy and learning since 1768.

Today that encyclopedia is chiefly to be found in a multitude of digital forms that are updated daily,” the company’s website says.

“We reach a lot more people now online than we ever did before,” Panelas said. And despite the end of print, some traditions will continue, explained Jorge Zauz, president of Encyclopaedia Britannica.

"The real tradition is not whether or not we print but that we bring scholarly knowledge to as many knowledge seekers as we can," Zauz told FoxNews.com. "That tradition we’re very happy to continue."

As the company switches off the presses, it faces new forms of competition, notably Wikipedia, the community-driven online encyclopedia that many have come to rely upon. Zauz acknowledged that site's prominence but cautioned that its quality might not be on a par.

"We are a very different type of knowledge base, one that is by the nature of what we do, significantly smaller than Wikipedia -- but much more reliable," he told FoxNews.com. "Right now everyone knows Google loves Wikipedia. 96 percent of the time its in the top five [search results]. It’s a pity that Britannica can’t take that position too.”

“I think that most people given the choice would prefer Britannica to any other alternative."

To mark the retirement of print, the entire britannica.com site will be available for free until March 21.

“There’s a place for well-written documents, where facts really matter, where we strive for balance," Zauz told FoxNews.com. "And the alternative is just …. different.”
link



We had a whole set when I was a kid. Leather binding and pages very thin like a bible. I remember using them quite often for school work.
 

xboxer75010

macrumors 6502
Oct 6, 2006
260
4
Carrollton, TX
Same here had a set when I was a kid, but haven't cracked open one of these in the last 10yrs, with the internet it just doesn't make sense.

Now if they would only stop printing phone books. Just received a new set this week and when straight into the recycling.
 

juanm

macrumors 68000
May 1, 2006
1,566
2,883
Fury 161
It's weird. When I grew up I spent countless hours reading an old two volume encyclopaedia we had laying around. It was so old, It didn't even mention Adolf Hitler or many other events we now consider an essential part of history. I loved the look of the engravings and the leather binding. It's still around somewhere, and almost a century old now...

I wonder what kind of similar childhood memories will have all the kids born now.
 

Scepticalscribe

macrumors Sandy Bridge
Jul 29, 2008
47,317
31,607
The Far Horizon
Wow. This marks the end of an era. For sure.

I grew up with this.
As did I.

It's weird. When I grew up I spent countless hours reading an old two volume encyclopaedia we had laying around. It was so old, It didn't even mention Adolf Hitler or many other events we now consider an essential part of history. I loved the look of the engravings and the leather binding. It's still around somewhere, and almost a century old now...

I wonder what kind of similar childhood memories will have all the kids born now.
I know what you mean; it is fascinating to look back over an old encyclopaedia and to see what was considered of vital importance at that time.

While I understand the argument about progress, and how businesses must adapt and change with changing times, I must say that I was sorry when I read this. End of an era, and all that.

Re phone books, I still find them useful and a handy treasure trove of information; not everything is on the net.
 

vrDrew

macrumors 65816
Jan 31, 2010
1,323
11,953
Midlife, Midwest
Definitely a bittersweet moment.

On the one hand, I'm surprised that Encylopædia Britannica held on as long as it did. Who, in their right mind, would pay a couple thousand dollars for a set of books when a) it would be out of date by next week and b) wikipedia exists.

On the other, I'll always be a sucker for the printed word. "Facts" are changeable things, and on a computer screen it is all to easy to edit, change, or obliterate those that - in hindsight - prove to have been mistaken. And a printed book provides an invaluable historical record, in a way that no online document possibly can.

Many, many years ago, my family rented a small beach house from a family we knew. One rainy afternoon my brother and I were poking through the dusty bookshelves and came across a one-volume encyclopedia dating from 1908 (at the time making it about seventy years old.)

It was fascinating. To read a book that was written before the horrors of two world wars and the holocaust. At a time when the sun never set on the British Empire. Before television, or talking movies. Before antibiotics.

I remember two things particularly well: An article on this amazing new Navy ship called HMS Dreadnought which was going to make war all but impossible. And the other was the unbelievably casual racism of the terms used to describe African, Asian, and Indian people.

The "facts" that book contained proved ultimately to be wrong. But it was an indelible record of the way people actually thought back then. And I think that the passing of the printed Britannica is one way we are depriving our descendants of a view of the way (probably wrong about a lot of things) we see things today.
 

ucfgrad93

macrumors P6
Aug 17, 2007
17,612
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Colorado

Shrink

macrumors G3
Feb 26, 2011
8,931
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New England, USA
I know it makes economic sense. I know it makes sense in terms of convenient access. It's even ecologically sensible - a lot of trees are breathing a sigh of relief.

Still and all...it's kind of sad for those of us old enough to have grown up with the EB as a wonderful, at-home reference source. A lot of good learning from that now antiquated resource modality.:(
 

localoid

macrumors 68020
Feb 20, 2007
2,447
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America's Third World
I know it makes economic sense. I know it makes sense in terms of convenient access. It's even ecologically sensible - a lot of trees are breathing a sigh of relief. ...(
Does it make ecological sense? Trees are a renewable resource. But a digital encyclopedia is powered by electricity, most likely (in the US, at least) produced from a nonrenewable source.

Within the US, chances are about 50/50 that your digital encyclopedia is running on coal. Which is a dirtier? Paper production + printing _or_ coal production + coal power generation + CD pressing? Someone should crunch the numbers...
 

eawmp1

macrumors 601
Feb 19, 2008
4,135
5
FL
Even in this digital era I was contemplating buying a used set at our library's used book sale. I too remember my grandparents had a set I would pick up and thumb through, stopping at entries that caught my eye or imagination. The pre-internet "surfing". Probably contributed a lot to my knowledge base without me even knowing it at the time.

R.I.P. printed encyclopedia
 

Shrink

macrumors G3
Feb 26, 2011
8,931
1,598
New England, USA
Does it make ecological sense? Trees are a renewable resource. But a digital encyclopedia is powered by electricity, most likely (in the US, at least) produced from a nonrenewable source.

Within the US, chances are about 50/50 that your digital encyclopedia is running on coal. Which is a dirtier? Paper production + printing _or_ coal production + coal power generation + CD pressing? Someone should crunch the numbers...
Good point.:D

I'm much too dumb to crunch the numbers. I'm sure there is someone here who can do it, if they want to take the time.
 

thewitt

macrumors 68020
Sep 13, 2011
2,102
1,518
Does it make ecological sense? Trees are a renewable resource. But a digital encyclopedia is powered by electricity, most likely (in the US, at least) produced from a nonrenewable source.

Within the US, chances are about 50/50 that your digital encyclopedia is running on coal. Which is a dirtier? Paper production + printing _or_ coal production + coal power generation + CD pressing? Someone should crunch the numbers...
Please save the world and turn off all your computers today. Permanently.....

To even propose that books, made from trees processed from stump to bound book with oil, gas, electricity and bleaching chemicals - oh and printed with ink made from oil - could possibly be more environmentally friendly than a digital book is ludicrous.
 

whooleytoo

macrumors 604
Aug 2, 2002
6,560
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Cork, Ireland.
Please save the world and turn off all your computers today. Permanently.....

To even propose that books, made from trees processed from stump to bound book with oil, gas, electricity and bleaching chemicals - oh and printed with ink made from oil - could possibly be more environmentally friendly than a digital book is ludicrous.
I don't know how you'd calculate that so readily. Once you own the paper edition, you're not consuming anything any more. OTOH each time over the lifetime of the encyclopaedia that you read the digital book you're using power.

I guess a lot depends on how much you use the encyclopaedia, and how cleanly your electricity is generated.

Plus, most people hang on to the paper editions of encyclopaedias for many years (my parents have a set that's well over 30 years old); whereas the digital devices are often replaced every 2-3 years, along with their batteries which tend not to be very ecologically friendly.
 

yg17

macrumors G5
Aug 1, 2004
14,911
2,480
St. Louis, MO
I grew up in the era giving me the best of all words.

In elementary school, print encyclopedias were what we used. In middle school, they had moved on to the CD based versions. In high school research moved to online. And in college, research was done on Wikipedia, using the sources on Wiki as the sources on my paper :D

Sure, Wikipedia is damn convenient since all the work is pretty much done for you (and it's probably dumbing down the youth), but there's something I miss about going to the library and getting the different editions of each encyclopedia to scour up all the information I could.
 

mscriv

macrumors 601
Aug 14, 2008
4,914
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Dallas, Texas
I grew up with the World Book Encyclopedia in our home. I used the Britannica at school. My wife and I often joke about how the generations that came after us will never know the joy of researching in a musty old encyclopedia.
 

SlugBlanket

macrumors regular
Mar 5, 2011
130
7
I bought a full set back in 1988, thinking that my kids might enjoy them as I did when I was a child. My first child didn't come along until 2002 by which time I had put them up in the loft. They are still there. My wife likes to remind occasionally by sniggering, "What ever happened to Encarta"? closely followed by "Didn't you used to have some old-fashioned, obsolete kind of encyclopaedia"?

I'm going to remove one of the volumes from the loft so that when she does this next time, I can throw it at her :)
 

eric/

Guest
Sep 19, 2011
1,681
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Ohio, United States
Does it make ecological sense? Trees are a renewable resource. But a digital encyclopedia is powered by electricity, most likely (in the US, at least) produced from a nonrenewable source.

Within the US, chances are about 50/50 that your digital encyclopedia is running on coal. Which is a dirtier? Paper production + printing _or_ coal production + coal power generation + CD pressing? Someone should crunch the numbers...
Removing trees probably has a larger ecological impact, since they remove pollutants from the atmosphere and produce oxygen while providing a natural habitat for animals.

Coal insist "dirty", but we also don't currently have feasible energy alternatives.
 

zachlegomaniac

macrumors 6502a
Sep 20, 2008
724
290
There is something to be said about the tactility of a book and the way it appeals to the other senses, too. I read some things on my computer, phone, iPad, but I will die with a hardcover copy of Leaves of Grass in my arms (if a piano doesn't fall on my head:eek:).
 

Carlanga

macrumors 604
Nov 5, 2009
7,012
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"We are a very different type of knowledge base, one that is by the nature of what we do, significantly smaller than Wikipedia -- but much more reliable," he told FoxNews.com. "Right now everyone knows Google loves Wikipedia. 96 percent of the time its in the top five [search results]. It’s a pity that Britannica can’t take that position too.”

Ridiculous & Jeulosy... Wikipedia has less errors than any other encyclopedia around.

To mark the retirement of print, the entire britannica.com site will be available for free until March 21.

Should be free forever if they really want to beat Wikipedia

“There’s a place for well-written documents, where facts really matter, where we strive for balance," Zauz told FoxNews.com. "And the alternative is just …. different.”

Wikipedia is as good or better w/ facts; If they really wanted to talk they should have gone to a balanced news site, not fox news :rolleyes: