So, farewell, O dead tree Encyclopedia Britannica

News today that Encyclopedia Britannica has decided not to print any more editions of its encyclopedia.  Sales of the paper version have been “negligible” for years, and 85% of the income comes from the online version.  I would imagine these sales are licenses to libraries and the like.  There is, apparently, some gloating from some anonymous erk in Wikipedia — the ‘encyclopedia’ that any teenager can edit (and especially Randy in Boise).

It’s a key moment, isn’t it?  The paper encyclopedia is now definitely dead.  That is, the major reference source until 1995 is now history. 

Any reference source in paper form is now obsolete.  Any source that is not read from end to end, but instead is accessed in bits and pieces, is now on borrowed time.  There are any number of such handbooks — we might think of the Clavis Patrum Graecorum.  They’re all dead meat, and just waiting to be collected.  They cannot, commercially, exist on paper any more.

It’s a brave new world.

Mind you, I do wish someone would sue the hell out of Wikipedia and force it to institute some proper controls and regulation of trolls.  It can’t grow much beyond its current status as “collection of hearsay”, until this is addressed.


4 thoughts on “So, farewell, O dead tree Encyclopedia Britannica

  1. I wish Brittannica would go completely online for free with advertising and frequent updates.

  2. So do I, but I don’t see how they’d make money. A good quality, reliable, online encyclopedia would be invaluable. But first they would have to solve the old problem that a moderated newsgroup always faded away when competing against an unmoderated newsgroup on the same topic; and probably the same is true for Britannica vs Wikipedia. What is needed, perhaps, is a wealthy man like Jimbo Wales. Wales is an unhappy owner of something like Wikipedia, because such things tend to reflect the feelings of the owner, and Wikipedia is shot through with contempt for those who contribute. That contempt, of course, is probably a legacy of Wales’ days in the porn industry, where the “contributors” were indeed just meat.

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