Encyclopedia Britannica

After 244 years, Encyclopedia Britannica will no longer be adorning bookshelves with print editions of itself.

Once a sign of affluence, Encyclopedia Britannica has announced that it will begin concentrating on its online edition and properties it develops for schools.  The last print edition will be the 2010 set which contained 32 volumes that weighed a whopping 129 pounds.  "It's a rite of passage in this new era," Jorge Cauz, the president of Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc., told The New York Times. "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."

Of course, it's also easy to say that Wikipedia, the peer edited free encyclopedia that has spawned millions of term papers, could be to blame.  As anyone can come in and create a page the moment an event happens, or catalog complete episode lists of various TV shows, it will still be difficult for an encyclopedia that follows the editing tactics of traditional media to stay current.  "We have very different value propositions," Cauz told the newspaper. "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."

Can information you pay for survive in a world dominated by free?  Only time will tell, but it does seem like the passing of an old friend to see the print edition of this mainstay of research go the way of the Dodo bird.  (yes, we linked to Wikipedia … because it's free for you to read.)

[via The New York Times]