Those of a younger disposition might not get what the fuss about the Encyclopaedia Britannica actually was, but for a certain generation, the Britannica was knowledge itself. Now, after 244 years of physical existence, it's going out of print. The New York Times reports on the fate of Encyclopaedia Britannica, which will cease physical publication of its tomes. There's still the iPad App, which we've written about before, and a renewed focus on online publication in the Wikipedia age. Speaking to the Times, Jorge Cauz, the president of Encyclopaedia Britannica said that
"It’s a rite of passage in this new era. Some people will feel sad about it and nostalgic about it. But we have a better tool now. The Web site is continuously updated, it’s much more expansive and it has multimedia."
Wikipedia might seem like the obvious Britannica competitor, but Cauz doesn't see it that way:
"We have very different value propositions. Britannica is going to be smaller. We cannot deal with every single cartoon character, we cannot deal with every love life of every celebrity. But we need to have an alternative where facts really matter. Britannica won’t be able to be as large, but it will always be factually correct."
The print edition had seen declining sales in recent years, with the Times report noting that only 8,000 sets of the 2010 edition sold, leaving a further 4,000 sitting in a warehouse. Back in 1990, Britannica sold 120,000 sets in the US alone. Then again, that 2010 edition cost a crisp $US1,395. For that kind of money, it would want to be accurate. [New York Times] Photo Hulton Archive/Getty Images