This may age me, but I totally remember looking up things in an encyclopedia…yes, I am THAT old. There was always a set in the classroom and it was the go-to reference for a quick and concise answer. But these days our kids don’t have much use for a great big set of hefty, space-stealing books full of knowledge. With the Internet, they can get all the answers, with video, related links, and more info than they’ll ever need on their thin, slim, less-than-two-pund iPad.
And the Encyclopedia Britannica is not living in denial that their books are now pretty much obsolete. And after 244 years, Encyclopedia Britannica will stop the print production of their books.However, they will continue to publish, just as an online entity.
Their last set of books coming in at 32 volumes was released in 2010 (their first was published in Scotland in 1768). “Everyone will want to call this the end of an era, and I understand that,” said Britannica president Jorge Cauz. “But there’s no sad moment for us. I think outsiders are more nostalgic about the books than I am.”
But the writing has been on the walls for a while. According to CNN, the printed encyclopedia now only accounts for less then 1 percent of their revenue; 15 percent of the revenue comes from their online presence, but their biggest business is in educational products (which account for almost 85 percent of their revenue). As for their online access, it isn’t cheap. They charge about $70 a year for the full website, or you can get an app for $1.99 a month. But will people pay for information that they see as free? Cauz thinks so.
“Google’s algorithm doesn’t know what’s fact or what’s fiction,” Cauz stated. “So Wikipedia is often the No. 1 or No. 2 result on search. But I’d bet a lot of money that most people would rather use Britannica than Wikipedia.”
When was the last time you referenced a printed encyclopedia? Is this a relic that you are sad that your children won’t use or are you fine with the way information is now delivered digitally?
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