After 200 years, last entry for Encyclopedia Britannica book form

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After 200 years, last entry for Encyclopedia Britannica book form

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Encyclopedia Britannica on March 13 said that it will stop publishing print editions of its flagship encyclopedia for the first time since the sets were originally published more than 200 years ago. [AP/YONHAP]


CHICAGO - Hours after Encyclopaedia Britannica announced it will stop publishing print editions of its flagship encyclopedia for the first time in more than 200 years, someone among the editing minions of free online rival Wikipedia made an irony-free note of that fact.

“It was announced that after 244 years, the Encyclopedia Britannica is going out of print, instead focusing on its online encyclopedia,” the entry read.

The book-form of Encyclopedia Britannica has been in print since it was first published in Edinburgh in 1768. It will stop being available when the current stock runs out, the company said. The Chicago-based company will continue to offer digital versions of the encyclopedia.

Officials said the end of the printed set has been foreseen for some time.

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

The top year for the printed encyclopedia was 1990, when 120,000 sets were sold, Cauz said. That number fell to 40,000 just six years later in 1996, he said. The company started exploring digital publishing the 1970s. The first CD-ROM version was published in 1989, and a version went online in 1994.

The final hardcover encyclopedia set is available for sale at Britannica’s Web site for $1,395.

The company plans to mark the end of the print version by making the contents of its Web site available free for one week, starting Tuesday.

Online versions of the encyclopedia now serve more than 100 million people around the world, the company said, and are available on mobile devices. The encyclopedia has become increasingly social as well, Cauz said, because users can send comments to editors.

“A printed encyclopedia is obsolete the minute that you print it,” Cauz said. “Whereas our online edition is updated continuously.”

Lynne Kobayashi of the Language, Literature & History section of the Hawaii State Library notes there will always be people who prefer using print sources over electronic sources. However, the proliferation of publishers of electronic databases has resulted in an audience attuned to online searching.

“There are many advantages to online searching, chief among them the ability to search within the text,” Kobayashi said. “The major disadvantage is the need for a computer or devices with access to the Internet.”

Britannica has thousands of expert contributors from around the world, including Nobel laureates and world leaders such as former President Bill Clinton and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. It also has a staff of more than 100 editors. AP
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