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.