Encyclopaedia Britannica to end print edition

Posted by Kate Taylor

After 244 years in print, the Encyclopaedia Britannica is going online-only.

Its publishers say that, once current inventory's gone, the 32-volume printed edition is to be discontinued.

"By concentrating our efforts on our digital properties, we can continuously update our content and further expand the number of topics and the depth with which they are treated without the space constraints of the print set," says president Jorge Cauz.

"In fact, today our digital database is much larger than what we can fit in the print set. And it is up to date because we can revise it within minutes anytime we need to, and we do it many times each day."

The books were first published in 1768 by three Scotsmen. They came to the US at the beginning of the 20th century - which is where the door-to-door sales technique really took off.

But it was actually Britannica that created the first digital encyclopaedia back in 1981, and was first to launch on the internet in 1994.

Going online only, says the company, will allow it to offer far more content, with continuous revision and updating. It's also easier to add supplementary material such as primary sources and links to external sites.

Print is also starting to look a bit old-fashioned, says editor in chief Dale Hoiberg.

"Users expect more and more multimedia content. We at Britannica have responded enthusiastically, with a particular focus recently on videos and interactive illustrations that bring greater depth and understanding to our articles," he says.

"The addition of visuals also makes an editor’s job much easier. As they say, 'A picture is worth a thousand words' – and pictures that move, talk, and engage the reader are worth thousands more."

There's some inventory left in the warehouses, says the company: so snap it up while there's still a chance.