RIP: Encyclopaedia Britannica

RIP Encyclopaedia Britannica.   Wikipedia has claimed another victim.  Will anyone try to stop Wikipedia’s monopoly on “information” ???  Now there really will be no life without Wikipedia – the Terrorists will hack Wikipedia and shut down our entire national education system:  we’ll have no fallback – no Encyclopaedia Britannica to run to in the library in case of emergency. (Quick tangent: Kids, Encyclopaedia Britannica was a physically printed volume of reference books that contained a small fraction of the information available to you at the click of a mouse online today.   Back in the day when we wanted to learn something, we’d trek down to the library and find the relevant reference volume of Encyclopaedia Britannica.  Then we’d try to charm the librarian into making a copy of the page for us, and, failing that, we’d sit down with a pen and paper to transcribe the relevant information by hand at a table in the corner.  But I digress…)

Today’s young whippersnappers might marvel at some of the points from the NY Times’ Encyclopaedia Britannica obituary:

“In the 1950s and 1960s, a set of encyclopedias on the bookshelf was akin to a station wagon in the garage or a black-and-white Zenith in the den, an object coveted not only for its usefulness but as a goalpost for an aspirational middle class. The books were often a financial stretch, with many families paying for their encyclopedias in monthly installments.”

That’s right, kids – these artifacts of a bygone era were once a friggin’ STATUS SYMBOL.   Try to wrap your head around that one.   My dad emailed me today:  “Did you know that at one time I tried to sell them door to door? I made three house calls and then realized that I was not suited to twisting arms for an obvious luxury product for most households.”    Howard Lindzon writes today about how his first sale was a set of Encyclopaedia Britannica!

Back to the New York Times:

The oldest continuously published encyclopedia in the English language, the Encyclopaedia Britannica has become a luxury item with a $1,395 price tag; it is typically purchased by embassies and well-educated, upscale consumers who feel an attachment to the set of bound volumes. Only 8,000 sets of the 2010 edition have been sold, and the remaining 4,000 have been stored in a warehouse until they can be purchased.

More facts:

“About half a million households pay a $70 annual fee that includes access to the full database of articles, videos, original documents and access to mobile applications. A selection of articles is already available free on the Web site, said Peter Duckler, a spokesman for Britannica.

Why pay for Encyclopaedia Britannica at all in this age of free information?  Well, for one,  Wikipedia is for pikers:

“It has nearly four million articles in English, many of them on pop-culture topics that would not pass muster in the pages of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.”

That’s right, kids – Encyclopaedia Britannica won’t be cluttered with schlock about Kim Kardashian: her sex tape, her reality TV show, reality wedding, reality life,  – she wouldn’t pass muster.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Howard Lindzon:

“Britannica has/had…great products, awesome funnels, tight scripts, and all-star people. NOT ENOUGH.

Killed by the platform.

Today there is a ‘better’ tool says Britannica’s President Jorge Cauz. The internet.

It took Wikipedia 11 years to murder a 244 year old institution.”




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