The Washington Post

Encyclopaedia Britannica ends print edition; goes digital

The encyclopedia entry on Encyclopaedia Britannica will soon need an update: After 244 years, the famous volumes will be going out of print, another victim of the digital age. The encyclopedia will continue as a digital edition.

A 32-volume set of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. (Reuters)

The Associated Press noted that the news about Britannica was quickly added to the publication’s Wikipedia page, without irony. Competition from the crowd-sourced Wikipedia is another reason for Britannica’s move to digital, despite Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc. President Jorge Cauz’s protestations.

“This has nothing to do with Wikipedia or Google,” Cauz said to the AP. “This has to do with the fact that now Britannica sells its digital products to a large number of people.”

Britannica has been in continuous print since 1768, and the 32-volume set will stop being available when the current stock runs out. According to the Wall Street Journal, the encyclopedia has been available digitally in disc form for 30 years, and online for 20.

Though Britannica is not as current as Wikipedia, and though some studies have deemed the two references equal in accuracy, the former is often regarded as more trustworthy than the latter.

“We have very different value propositions,” Mr. Cauz said to the New York Times. “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.”

On Twitter, Encyclopaedia Britannica readers shared nostalgic memories of holding the heavy tomes. Did you own a Britannica set?

Tragically sad that Encyclopedia Brittannica is to end print edition.Digital is merely data, books are joy and beauty

— Stuart Bruce (@stuartbruce) March 14, 2012

Now I wish my parents hadn’t sprung for that set of Britannica encyclopedia. Salesman told us it was a good investment.…

— 2old4toys (@2old4toys) March 14, 2012

Britannica stops printing: History will look consider this event a pivotal moment in story of western civilisation:

— Paul English (@P_English) March 14, 2012

Makes sense that Britannica shut down. When was the last time you heard a teacher say “Don’t copy your homework off Britannica okay?”

— Tanmay Bhat (@thetanmay) March 14, 2012
DisclaimerThis is a non-scientific user poll. Results are not statistically valid and cannot be assumed to reflect the views of Washington Post users as a group or the general population.

Maura Judkis covers culture, food, and the arts for the Weekend section and Going Out Guide.


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