End of Era for Encyclopedia’s Print Edition

CHICAGO—The famed Encyclopaedia Brittanica book set, once a staple of living room bookshelves and a mark of affluence among the middle class, will cease to be printed for the first time in its 243-year history. The book version has been in print since debuting in Scotland back in 1768, but once the current stock runs out, the set will only be available in its digital version.

The Encyclopaedia Brittanica reached its peak in 1990 with sales of 120,000 sets, but that figure dwindled to 40,000 by 1996, two years after the publisher debuted its online version. The remaining hardcover encyclopedia sets are being offered on Brittanica’s Website for $1,395.

“The sales of printed encyclopedias have been negligible for several years,” company president Jorge Cauz told The Associated Press. “We knew this was going to come.”

Cauz noted that the online version serves more than 100 million people worldwide. The beauty of the digital version is that it can be updated constantly, while the print edition becomes obsolete before the ink even dries, he said.

“(This) is a commemoratory moment at Britannica,” Cauz wrote on his blog. “We are energized by the fact that our efforts of the last few years have been successful. We have completed our transition from print publisher of the Encyclopaedia Britannica to a digital provider of knowledge and e-learning solutions. The success of this transition is not only a testament to our strong brand and dedication, but also to the esteem that society places on Britannica as a reliable, trustworthy source of knowledge and instruction.”