People who grew up in an age of paper reference probably experienced some bittersweet nostalgia upon hearing the news that after more than two centuries of publication, Encyclopedia Britannica will no longer be produced in its highly recognizable printed form.
Blame Wikipedia- many are certain to- but the move was also an inevitable one with the entirety of the internet to compete with Encyclopedia Britannica. The 32-volume series will go entirely digital now, twenty years after it first transcended physical media and began offering online editions. In a press release, Encyclopedia Britannica’s president Jorge Cauz said that the move was a long time coming, and the end of the iconic and expensive print edition was an eventuality:
“The end of the print set is something we’ve foreseen for some time,” said Jorge Cauz, president of Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. “It’s the latest step in our evolution from the print publisher we were, to the creator of digital learning products we are today.”
It seems Encyclopedia Britannica is taking the move in stride, focusing instead on the new opportunities digital distribution presents than mourning its stately past as a research staple in print. In the release, Cauz highlights the benefits of technological advancement for the legacy brand:
“The company is also moving vigorously in developing community features for its online users. At Britannica Online School Edition PreK-12, teachers share lesson plans. Britannica Online allows readers to make revisions directly to the encyclopedia, which are then published after editorial review and revision if necessary. Britannica language and dictionary subsidiary Merriam-Webster.com boasts community features in which visitors share thoughts on words and usage.
“We’re digital, we’re mobile, and we’re social,” said Cauz. “We’re a very different company from 20 or 30 years ago.”
While I personally fully embrace ebooks and generally eschew print, it is a bit sad to think that encyclopedias- as expensive and out of date immediately though they may be- are going the way of the buggy whip. Will you miss the print version of Encyclopedia Brittanica?