Encyclopaedia Britannica Ends Print Run, Fully Embraces Digital World
We’ve already waved good-bye to video cassettes and pay phones. Now, after 244 years, Encyclopaedia Britannica announced March 13 that it will no longer be printing its reference publications. The 32-volume print sets will be discontinued; the 2010 Encyclopaedia Britannica set is its final printed version.
Founded in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1768, the encyclopaedia was a creation of the European Enlightenment which challenged the status quo of the day. Moved to Chicago by a new owner, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., has been on bookshelves across the world year after year, day after day.
With the new digital age and demand for constant news updates, the company can no longer keep up with the times through its printed version.
“We just decided that it was better for the brand to focus on what really the future is all about,” said Encyclopaedia Britanica president Jorge Cauz.
Turning to the web is not new for them. Communications director Tom Panelas, said the company produced the first digital encyclopaedia in 1981 (distributed through LexisNexis) and its multimedia encyclopaedias were invented in 1989. The company put its first encyclopaedia on the internet in 1994.
“It’s a rite of passage in this new era,” Cauz said. “Some people will feel nostalgic about it. But we have a better tool now. The website is continuously updated, it’s much more expansive, and it has multimedia.”
To show a true sign of the times, Parade magazine claims that Americans purchased 120,000 printed sets in 1990, and Encyclopaedia Britannica made $650 million in revenue. This final printed version, produced in 2010, contains 32 volumes and weighs129 pounds. The company printed just 12,000 sets and still has an estimated 4,000 left, currently selling for $1,395.
For now, the company will direct their focus to online and educational curriculum for schools. “We have very different value propositions,” Cauz said. “Britannica is going to be smaller. We cannot deal with every single cartoon character, we cannot deal with every love life of every celebrity. But we need to have an alternative where facts really matter. Britannica won’t be able to be as large, but it will always be factually correct.”
Starting March 14, Britannica Online -- www.Britannica.com -- is offering a free week to customers.