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Goodbye, Printed Britannica
Goodbye, Printed Britannica

By Barry Levine
March 14, 2012 11:21AM

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More than 100 million users worldwide tap into the digital Encyclopedia Britannica, and apps are available for the iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone. Community features for Encyclopedia Britannica have also been added, allowing teachers to share lesson plans. For the first time after 244 years, the encyclopedia will no longer be printed, only digital.
 


A page in the history of recorded knowledge has been turned. But that page is going to be digital if it's in the venerable Encyclopedia Britannica, which announced Wednesday it will stop publishing its printed version.

The decision to go all-digital comes for Britannica after 244 years of hardcover editions, and means that countless bookshelves are weighted with the last of their kind -- the expensive, 32-volume set of Encyclopedia Britannica.

First published in 1768 in Edinburgh, Scotland, the Encyclopedia has been published every year since, and became the gold standard of encyclopedias.

'Latest Step in Our Evolution'

Britannica has been hinting for some years that this day would come, sooner or later. In recent times, the home page of the company's Web site has been showing a family looking up information on a laptop, a tablet or a smartphone.

The Chicago-based company said in a statement that the Encyclopedia has been mostly an online product for nearly two decades, and that it will be fully digital once the current stock of printed books runs out.

Jorge Cauz, president of Encyclopedia Britannica, said in a statement that "the end of the print set is something we've foreseen for some time." He added that the move to all digital is the "latest step in our evolution from the print publisher we were."

That digital evolution began in the 1970s, when the first digital edition of Britannica was created for LexisNexis users, which the company said may have been the first digital encyclopedia in history. It published the first multimedia encyclopedia on CD-ROM in 1989, and, in 1994, the first Internet-based encyclopedia.

As print possibilities began to dwindle, the company used its expertise and brand to expand beyond reference and into the school curriculum and digital learning markets. The new products included digital instructional programs, and e-books for math, science and the humanities.

No Longer Under 'P'

The digital versions offer numerous advantages for knowledge-lovers everywhere. There are multiple versions, which are widely available at prices dramatically less than the book version, they are constantly updated, and contain substantially more content than the printed books.

More than 100 million users worldwide tap into the digital Britannica, and apps are available for the iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone. Community features have also been added, allowing teachers to share lesson plans, and, for the Britannica subsidiary Merriam-Webster dictionary, users can exchange comments on word usage.

And, in a feature that could jolt those who remember the sacrosanct, thin Encyclopedia Britannica pages that held the last word on virtually everything, online users can also make suggested revisions to subject entries. If, after a review by editors, the entry is a valid correction, an appropriate revision is made.

Brad Shimmin, who remembers the ultimate authority and physical weight of the printed edition, said this announcement is part of the evolution of information flow, where printed books led to knowledge, which led to power. Now, access is replacing books.

He also noted that it represents a fundamental shift in how knowledge is packaged. "People don't really think these days that you can find out about 'pirates' by looking under 'P,' " Shimmin said.

As a farewell gift from the departing printed edition, the company is making the entire contents of the Britannica Web site available for free for one week, beginning Wednesday.
 

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Cedric:

Posted: 2012-03-15 @ 1:59am PT
This clearly shows us the trend of how the world is shifiting towards online tv and digital content. Keeping with this trend of digital content in recent times, a new company called MyCube has emerged which seems very interesting. It allows users to post and view content and also get rewarded for it.



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