Encyclopaedia Britannica has 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.
The book-form of Encyclopaedia Britannica has been in print since it was first published in Edinburgh, Scotland, 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, 32-volume set has been foreseen for some time.
“This has nothing to do with Wikipedia or Google,” Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc. 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 website for $1,395…
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“A printed encyclopedia is obsolete the minute that you print it,” Cauz said.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.”
Search is the deciding factor. There will be those raised with print who find it difficult to adapt and change. They will be followed by generations that will read about that question — on their digital devices.