Britannica calls it quits, trees everywhere rejoice

In 1768, the first Encyclopedia Britannica was printed in Scotland. Now, 244 years later they are calling it quits. The last 32-volume set of encyclopedias was printed in 2010 and are usually printed every two years. But, the 2010 edition will be Britannica's last. The company plans to refocus its attention to digital encyclopedias and educational tools. 

This is definitely the end of an era, but I am really surprised they lasted this long. Sites like Wikipedia and Google make it easy to get free information via the web these days. Google has become so big that it is not just a search engine, it is now a verb. How often do you "google" something? Daily, right? Sometimes hourly? I remember a salesman coming to our house trying to sell us encyclopedias back in the 1980s. I know my parents bought something along the way but I don't think it was the Britannica brand. I wonder how many salesman will be lining up at their local Department of Labor to file for unemployment with this announcement. I doubt there are very many.

Encyclopedia Britannica is late to the world wide web game and has a lot of ground to make up. I am not sure they have a chance to catch up with the likes of Wikipedia, Google, Bing, and other wikis and search engines. Content is king, and having credible, accurate information may be Britannica's saving grace. But, is John Q. Public willing to pay for it? Monetizing will be the biggest challenge ahead for Encyclopedia Britannica. 

So, what's next? Magazines? Newspapers? Other books/novels? All of these traditional industries are in jeopardy. As more and more printed content converts to digital, I can guarantee one thing: toilet paper is safe...for now.

Photo: Old school knowledge (Joi Ito) / CC BY 2.0

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