Encyclopedia Britannica abandons print edition

Nieuws | de redactie
15 maart 2012 | After 244 years, Encyclopedia Britannica goes out of print. Its prestigious, yet pricy products will now be only offered online in hopes of gaining ground vis-à-vis Wikipedia.”We need to have an alternative where facts really matter,” the firm’s president Jorge Cauz comments.

The oldest continuously published Encyclopedia Britannica (EB)will be offered online only from now on. The 32 volume 2010edition with a price tag of $1,395 (€1070) and a weight of 129pounds (58 kg) was the last version to be printed.

Jorge Cauz, president of Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc. commented that “it’s a rite of passage in thisnew era. Some people will feel sad about it and nostalgic about it.But we have a better tool now. The Web site is continuouslyupdated, it’s much more expansive and it has multimedia.”

By focusing more on its online segment, EB hopes to gain marketshare from Wikipedia. In the past, these efforts were littlesuccessful. In 1993, Microsoft and EB cooperated on “Encarta”, a PCbased encyclopedia which was then abandoned in 2009. Yet, Cauzbelieves EB has some superior qualities that cannot be provided byWikipedia.

Fighting Wikipedia online via accuracy

“We have very different value propositions. Britannica is goingto be smaller. We cannot deal with every single cartoon character,we cannot deal with every love life of every celebrity. But we needto have an alternative where facts really matter. Britannica won’tbe able to be as large, but it will always be factuallycorrect.”

In 2005, Nature magazine published a study casting doubt on thatproposition as well. A research showed that out of competing 42entries, Wikipedia made 4 errors per article on average. With EBthis rate was still at 3 errors per article. When confronted withthis evidence, EB published a statement calling the research deeplyflawed and “completely without merit”.

A new entry on global warming in 2010

In any case, the print segment has been steadily declining inimportance for EB. By now, print revenues take only a share of lessthan 1% of total revenues. The rest is divided into income from$70/year online subscriptions (15%) and curriculum products forEnglish language, math and science subjects (85%).

Back in 1990, EB experienced more glorious times. Then, it wasable to sell 120,000 editions only in the U.S. The 2010 version,however, was only sold 8,000 times out of a total print run of12,000. It included new entries on global warming and the HumanGenome Project.

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