Encyclopædia Britannica ends print edition after 244 years

“After 244 years reference book firm Encyclopaedia Britannica has decided to stop publishing its famous and weighty 32-volume print edition,” BBC News reports.

“It will now focus on digital expansion amid rising competition from websites such as Wikipedia,” The Beeb reports. “The firm, which used to sell its encyclopaedias door-to-door, now generates almost 85% its revenue from online sales.”

The Beeb reports, “It recently launched a digital version of its encyclopaedias for tablet PCs.”

MacDailyNews Take: By which, obviously, The Beeb means “iPads.” That they and other media outlets insist on pretending that there is meaningful market for “tablet PCs” is laughable.

“Britannica said while its decision to focus on online editions was influenced by the shift in consumer pattern, the ability to update content at a short notice also played a big role,” The Beeb reports. ‘A printed encyclopaedia is obsolete the minute that you print it,’ Mr Cauz said. ‘Whereas our online edition is updated continuously.'”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: The end of an era (that we thought had already ended years ago).

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “David G.” for the heads up.]


  1. What a coincidence. Three days I asked my wife, “Do printed encyclopedias even exist anymore?” The following day we were in a university library and saw about 8 sets, collecting dust.

    Maybe it’s the nostalgia of doing book reports with about 5 volumes open on my desk, but this is a sad day. On the flip side, my three kids (7, 5 and 3) will each be issued the new iPad at their school next year. How things have changed.

      1. Heck, why wait? I have a stack of them, just like any crew member of Enterprise, Voyager, or DS9. Imagine, reading email on one, browsing the web on another, watching a movie, writing a paper, checking out photos, playing a game, following friends on Facebook. It never ends what you can do with a pile of iPads.

  2. “MacDailyNews Take: By which, obviously, The Beeb means “iPads.” That they and other media outlets insist on pretending that there is meaningful market for “tablet PCs” is laughable.”
    Perhaps if MDN recognised the fact that the BBC is public funded Public Service Broadcasting, and under its charter is not supposed to promote or advertise specific products they wouldn’t make such fatuous remarks.
    Of course they recognise that iProducts exist, and make a bit of a joke by saying ‘…other products are available” any time a product name is mentioned, but even a decade ago product logos were obscured, and even now some people get pissy because BBC presenters wear outdoor clothing with prominent logos.
    Get a clue, MDN, the rest of the world isn’t like America.

    1. I was very hopeful that Rorschach could make it to the end of his post without using potty language this time but alas, he could not quite make it. It is sad that we have to have the level of Apple based discussions pulled down to the gutter. I hope you get some anger management training soon and stop taking out your frustrations on the rest of the world.

      1. Are you serious? Rorschach is the soul of calm, benevolence and rationality compared to some of the Barbary pirates that swoop down on this site swearing a blue streak, taking no prisoners.

        I greatly appreciate your attempts to keep it clean, but this time should be excepted, since the word you are pointing to in repugnance was not meant in its “potty” definition, but in its other definition of argumentative.

    2. You would think that a public funded Public Service like the BBC, would not pretend that there is only one side, the liberal side, of every political argument.

      The BBC is known, world wide, for their liberal bent. It’s easy to imagine an Apple bias as well.

  3. Kinda nostalgic about it too, we had a set at our house. But the change is for the better really. Not just for the immediate update of info value but also the video and audio value that can enrich any subject presented. It’s just better all around. Another page is turned so to speak.

    1. World Book.

      The “See ‘other article’ “at the end of many entries was my first introduction to “hyperlinks” although I didn’t know it at the time.

      I usually ended up with just about every volume opened up to related entries after looking up something “simple.”

      Good times indeed.

  4. One drawback to digital editions of reference books is that they are easily altered. Once a book is printed, for good or for bad, it’s not simply ‘obsolete’, it is permanent. Granted, new information is missing from it, but the original information is intact.

    Under tyrannical regimes, book burnings were the only way to destroy critical knowledge. Even then, treasured volumes were hidden and kept safe for posterity. Today’s greater reliance on digital media makes that information’s future less sure.

    I have old text books that the publisher would likely desire to see disappear, since they state that Aborigines and Africans are less evolved than whites. But we need to know what type of ignorance and racism used to be propagated by the elites.

    What if an update to our digital encyclopedia, in the name of adding up-to-date content, completely alters or removes existing valid and vital content in the process.

    Once we convert entirely to digital media to embrace the present and the future, we risk forever losing our past. Will it happen? I don’t know. But archaeologists 1000 years from now will have a hard time finding out what we knew when they can’t find any printed media of the next generation.

    1. Excellent point. I have been a photographer for many decades.

      My negative film images are far more secure (and essentially un-alterable) than digital files.

      With the caveat that, unlike original negatives, digital files can be multi-located.

      1. There was once a time when looking at photos on the then-Soviet Union edition of the Daily Pravda was comical. Typically, they were airbrushed to remove a comrade who had fallen out of favor with Stalin, Khrushchev or Brezhnev or other obvious alterations were made. They were noticeable to the point of being tragically comical.

        Some years later, I saw a photo of the New York City skyline altered by an early, talented digital retoucher (pre-Photoshop). It was a heart-stopping experience for me, because the buildings defining the New York City skyline had been moved around. The work was practically indistinguishable, and my alarm was that in the wrong hands, the truth could be altered and manipulated to sow destructive lies. Today, Photoshop is now a weapon in the arsenal of totalitarian governments and even the media.

        It’s not that Photoshop is by itself evil (except for the fact that Adobe refuses to keep its code current with OS-X, thus holding back thousands, if not millions of Mac users from being able to stay on current versions of OS-X – and of course, there’s Flash, as well as Adobe’s legendary arrogance). But in the hands of someone evil, a photo could potentially cause a riot – or worse.

  5. A massive Paradigm Shift is under way in our economy, largely fueled by Apple and their fabulous solutions. Someday the “traditional businesses” will get it. Politicians are always the last to know. The training classes for this include bankruptcies for those who do not adjust. As Greece shows, bankruptcies can include countries.

  6. If ever there was a sign that the future is now, this is it.

    Whether it is presented on iPads, bound books, scrolls or cave walls, human ingenuity and knowledge is the substance that counts.

    I don’t mourn the passing of 244 years of print, nor do I celebrate it. As a lover of reading and of technology, I most certainly accept it and embrace it.

  7. I was lucky to have an E.B. Jr. set, in the house, growing up. It was a valuable addition to my education. I spent lots of time reading random tidbits. That, and National Geographic, which my parents kept 40 years of volumes.

    The tech revolution is defeating paper, but not the source. I wish E.B. a 1000 years of successful business. I just wish it was cheaper.

  8. Can anybody teach them iBooks Author? We are doing a lot of encyclopedias with it now. Apple’s iBooks team is going to visit my booth tomorrow at the Leipzig book fair to see our newest iBooks. Looking forward so much. Apple gave publishing a future.

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