The Encyclopaedia Britannica is going out of print after 244 years, after being trumped by digital sources such as Wikipedia.
The thick tomes of knowledge on everything from Aardvarks to Zymology will no longer by available on the print market, with the company choosing instead focus on their online editions and educational resources.
The president of Britannica, Jorge Cauz, said that the company had long predicted the demise of the printed version. "We knew this was going to come" he admitted.
However Cauz attempted to pacify readers reluctant to say goodbye to the print version in a blog, which seems particularly appropriate, considering their new online venture. In a post entitled “Looking Ahead” Cauz writes:
"I understand that for some the end of the Britannica print set may be perceived as an unwelcome goodbye to a dear, reliable, and trustworthy friend that brought them the joy of discovery in the quest for knowledge.
"We believe that the announcement we will no longer print the 32-volume encyclopedia is of great significance, not for what it says about our past, but for what it projects about our vibrant present and future."
Encyclopaedia Britannica began in Scotland in 1768, the company proudly displaying its roots with the distinctive thistle logo.
Gathering pace quickly, by the turn of the 18th century the encyclopedia enterprise had expanded to include 20 volumes.
However within popular memory, the Encyclopaedia Britannica is perhaps most well known for being sold by door-to-door salesman, with homeowners given the option to buy either one of the heavy gold lettered tomes, or dig deep in their pocket for a whole set.
In this way, Encyclopaedia Britannica became both accessible and ubiquitous, further strengthening its venerable reputation for "scholarly excellence".
Cauz said that 1990 was one of the strongest years for the company, with 120,000 sets sold. However sales had dipped to a third of that by 1996, with only 40,000 sold.
Last year sales of the print version of the book accounted for less than one percent of the company's revenue. Compared to Wikipedia, which is free, a whole set of Encyclopaedia Britannia will set you back £750.00.
Cauz has expressed his desire to move the content online not only to allow editorial decisions to be unconstrained by necessities of printing, but also so that it can be updated more easily. He explained online:
"We can continuously update our content and further expand the number of topics and the depth with which they are treated without the space constraints of the print set. In fact, today our digital database is much larger than what we can fit in the print set. And it is up to date because we can revise it within minutes anytime we need to, and we do it many times each day."
Encyclopedia Britannica was mourned on Twitter, as hundreds of people took to the social networking site to express their sadness that the volumes were going out of print. However some were more sceptical. Take a look at some of the opinions below.
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