Encyclopaedia Britannica announced today that the print edition of the 244 year-old iconic reference series will henceforth be available in digital format only. This should not be surprising, as print and even digital versions of paid encyclopedias with their expert-generated articles have been severely disrupted by Wikipedia with its constantly updated and usually more or less correct crowdsourced content and with its much vaster collection of entries.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, unlike many in the traditional paper publishing industry, saw the writing on the wall long ago and has prepared itself for this eventuality by publishing digital versions of the Encyclopaedia for a number of years — EB pioneered the first multimedia encyclopedia on CD in 1989 and the first web based encyclopedia in 1994. The company has also diversified aggressively into the educational market.
“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. We’re digital, we’re mobile, and we’re social, we’re a very different company from 20 or 30 years ago.”
To mark the passing of the print version the entire contents of the Encyclopaedia Britannica website will be free to access for one week starting today.