Oh, goody. One more step closer to being able to completely rewrite history when the truth is inconvenient since it will only be digital. No eraser crumbs on those bits to give it away.

Whether it was a prized possession paid for in installments and lovingly displayed on the top shelf, a neglected doorstop, or simply non-existent in your household, you undoubtedly grew up familiar with the sight of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. But now the days of the handsome gold-lettered reference books are over.

Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc. announced Tuesday it will stop publishing print editions of its signature product for the first time in its 244-year history. In an acknowledgment of the shifting media landscape and the increasing reliance on digital references, the company said its current encyclopedia – the 32-volume, 129-pound 2010 edition – will be unavailable once the existing stock runs out. (If you’re interested, it’s yours for $1,395 and there are only 4,000 sets left.) The digital version of the encyclopedia, however, will live on.

  1. scandihoovian says:

    Everyone hates the cloud yet they love (redundant) digital storage. I guess that’s fine as long as your redundancy isn’t in the same earthquake/flood/fire/volcano/tornado/meteorite zone.

    • msbpodcast says:

      If your redundancy is on ground as risky and as shaky as the economy, the last thing you want is for your data to survive you.

  2. Pays2Think says:

    Having the hard copy of the Britannica hasn’t stopped the Texas conservatives from rewriting the history of the world and the United States.

  3. Lynn says:

    Thank God for my Funk and Wagnalls. As a child, I used to take a volume into the bathroom with me on those occasions. A rather unsavory thing to do with a laptop, bleh. I still look in the old F&W when I need some small piece of information that’s static since 1967, it’s faster than turning on the computer etc.

  4. overtemp says:

    Once upon a time students would misshelve books to prevent other students from having access to them. With Wikipedia, someone could actually change history for a few hours, or perhaps even days, and it’s not likely the other students doing the research are going to view the article history or come back to it again. Many fascinating research papers await.

    • msbpodcast says:

      With Wikipedia, someone could actually change history for a few hours, or perhaps even days.

      Its not like a blog, its a big moderated database of entries.

      While it used to be true that anybody could get anything into the database. or get any changes accepted, its hasn’t been longer true for years.

      • Lynn says:

        Meh. I just changed a wikipedia page last month. No questions asked and the change went right through.

  5. bobbo, oh, the Horror says:

    I’m with Lynn, and not watching TV with Pedro.

    I still recall one of our family highlight moments was when the EB was brought home and installed IN OUR LIVING ROOM. Ha, ha.

    Then all Dear Old Dad did was grouse we couldn’t afford the Oxford dictionary.

    Think I saw a while back the OED is no longer printed? I do keep looking for it on-line but have only found a few for fee references.

    Books. >>>>>>>>>>>>> Electronics.

    Pro’s and Cons. I say: Both.

    • Lynn says:

      Oh, man, as a kid my dream was to own the complete OED! I almost bought a set, at one point. There is nothing like going from word to word, with all the early examples, etc. I guess I should get it in digital format. Don’t you agree that the same impulse that made us go from one encyclopedia entry to another is what gets people going from one link to another on the interwebtubes?

      • GregAllen says:

        This is your window to get a set. Your local public library may be getting rid of set.

        Our library system has a complete reference section downtown but the library branches hardly have anything.

        The full OED is awesome. (Even so, I’ve probably used it twice in my life.)

  6. Glenn E. says:

    They should digitize the laws of the land, but then anybody could look them up, without buying an expensive Law Library. It could all fit on a few CDs. So naturally this has been resisted, fanatically! The same way the medical professions probably resist putting Gray’s Anatomy on a CD. Digitizing this stuff, could lead to making most doctors and lawyer obsolete.

    • Lynn says:

      If you’re willing to pay an arm + leg, it’s all available via LexisNexis. Another wish of mine, if I hit the lottery.

  7. bobbo, oh, the Horror says:

    The law was one of the first data bases fully digitized. WestLaw, Lexis, findlaw.com which I use all the time, Cornell Law, I assume Harvard/Yale do something?

    I was impressed with my last call to Jury Duty. Its all done on line now. Imagine the ass of the law galloping head of all other social institutitons?

    Maybe you meant put the legislative/congressional bill moving process on line?

    To borrow a phrase: “Oh, the Horror!”

  8. Sterling says:

    I read on Wikipedia (I know, I know) that Microsoft had asked EB if the former could use the latter’s encyclopeadia but was turned down, and as a result MS made (bought?) Encarta.

    Should have taken the dough.

  9. Yaknow says:

    Goddamnit, this is going to put thousands of door-to-door Encyclopedia salesmen out of work!

  10. Cap'nKangaroo says:

    “The Sum of Human Knowledge” and then the Berlin Wall comes down. Two years later much of what was in EB on Europe was outdated. Attempting to keep current on astrophysics or DNA or just about any technology begs for something other than paper.

  11. I'm not a moose. says:

    So should I hold on to my leather bound 1911 edition EB??

    • NewfornatSux says:

      What does it have to say about the population of Jerusalem or the definition of Palestine?

      • Lynn says:

        Birth and death dates of Dr. Samuel Johnson et al have not changed – I think. Wait, let me check Wikipe….

  12. Yaknow says:

    Both links

  13. The Watcher says:

    I’d always wanted a copy – encyclopedias are one of my pleasures, but ended up with a CD version a few years ago. Never bothered to update it, though.

    The Township library had a copy from the 40’s – _that_ was fun…. Dad broke down and bought us a copy of the World Book in the early 50’s. We kept buying the yearly updates for twenty years or so. Looking stuff up got to be kinda silly, but it was fun.

    My BIL stole the World Book to trade in on something for his kids (my nephews & nieces) but nobody wanted the update volumes. Still got ’em….

    End of an era, I guess….

    • Lynn says:

      I have the Funk & Wagnall’s yearbooks from 1960-1985. They’re a lot of fun because you get the in-the-moment perspective, especially on cultural entries (fashion, theater, movies, etc)

    • farmits says:

      I purchased Colliers in the early 80s and kept up with the annual year books for about 17 years.

      My kids grew up only using it for school a few times. I used to grab a volume at random and just open it and start reading, done that since high school.

      I finally donated it to the local library the last time I moved, surprising that the library was happy to have the set.

  14. Traaxx says:

    Yeah, it’s a key component toward ‘1984’, and the Elite will rewrite history – if nothing else all it will take is a lawsuit and a court order to either have something stripped out or changed. Those with the money control the courts and elitist establishments.

    Just think in name of the environment soon paper will be outlawed or heavily taxed.



  15. Dallas says:

    I’m surprised it was still in print. I suppose some people had extra space on their bookshelf for books.

  16. JimD, Boston, MA says:

    They don’t publish the CD edition any more either ! This was the most cost effective way to send the info – USPS was cheap compared to the Telco Monopoly – from 300 baud up to today’s MegaBits per second !!! Too bad !!!

  17. ABO says:

    I have a very nice Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. Four reduced pages per page. It’s awesome. And I have NEVER used the word “awesome” before.
    I do need a magnifying video system to read it, however.

    Simon Winchester wrote two books about the creation of the Oxford Dictionary. Fascinating, especially the part where the guy severs his penis. I am not kidding.

  18. sargasso_c says:

    A sad day for book burners everywhere.

  19. ABO says:

    Libraries are next. I have hundreds of books in my home, and think highly of each one. I gave up on my Kindle. It pretty much sucks. And reading a book on my computer seems just horrible.

    It’s OK, though. I am old enough that books will last long enough for me. Too bad for young people. Enjoy Wikipedia along with your hybrid plastic cars.

  20. NewfornatSux says:

    11th edition of EB published in 1910 says Palestine comes from the name Philistines, and refers to Israel.

  21. Rick says:

    I see plenty of complete sets of Encyclopedias at thrift stores these days, pretty much unread too since the spines still make a nice crackle when you open the book.

  22. GregAllen says:

    As a librarian, this is a big deal and it isn’t.

    It’s a big deal historically, of course.

    But students quit using encyclopedias a number of years ago. Not just those, but the whole printed reference section.

  23. smartalix says:

    I must admit I had expected print encyclopedias to remain around as a niche luxury product for collectors and institutions. I don’t like the idea of non-permanent storage for all our knowledge (not just encyclopedias) and it bothers me that hard copies of stuff are not being kept someplace!


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