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Encyclopedia Britannica Print Edition Discontinued After 244 Years (britannica.com)
87 points by marklabedz on Mar 13, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 14 comments

See discussion on the page about the NYTimes story about this: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3700635

It's sad.

Much of the knowledge that serves me well today was gained as a child sprawled across the carpet in our 'study' just flipping through encyclopaedia pages and reading what interested me.

Children of subsequent generations will never know that joy.

That being said, it's all part of the general flow of things. Change is inevitable!

Agreed. I had a collection Brittanica back in the day and I remember randomly perusing through it and finding interesting tidbits of information I would otherwise be ignorant of. What a resource it was. That experience is not found by today's technology, yet. Wikipedia has a "random article" link, but it's not the same as flipping through a Book and stopping when you see interesting key-words/pictures.

Maybe there is an iPad app in here somewhere that mimics this behavior ;-)

Hah! That's giving Job's API's too much credit :)

The feeling of pages ruffling past your thumb as the words flew past you at lightning speed, the slight upward draught created by the screaming pages...and suddenly stop thud stillness -- not knowing whether it was a word or a colour or a picture that caught your attention, but here you were, another page, but a whole new world to discover. The whole process almost imitates the way your mind moves -- fast movement between subjects...and still contemplation within them.

Contrast that with the "tap" or "swipe" on an iPad or the "click" of a mouse and it all just seems a little...bland.

This got me thinking about API's and the limitations of hardware in providing experiences, and then I realised that the ultimate consumer computing device would be some kind of "possibility field" that could morph into whatever was required by the user.

The hardware itself would be an API called by the user's interactions...ah one can dream, right? :)

Although I find this development far from unexpected, one cannot feel a pang of sadness to see an institution as celebrated the Encyclopedia Britannica going ever so gently into the good night.

Even today, I remember using the venerable (1911) eleventh edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica as a starting point for numerous research papers on topics as diverse as the r the history of classical mathematics to the repeal of the English Corn Laws. While the information was often far from definitive, it always provided an excellent starting point for subsequent research. An added pleasure of a well used set of those volumes was the traces of previous seekers of knowledge. A forgotten piece of pater here and a faint underlining there could be a great reassurance when you though your were off in the weeds alone.

While the physical print runs fo the Britannica have come to an end, happily several of the classic editions are now in the public domain and are thus accessible to a vastly greater portion of humanity than was every envisioned by the founders of this noble project.

Why "going to good night"? They will still exist in the digital form...

Browsing their website, the print edition costs over one thousand USD. It is listed as containing "over 65,000 articles"

The most expensive software edition is $40. It is listed as containing "Over 100,000 articles"

Surely it doesn't cost over a thousand dollars to print 32 books?

It can easy cost a thousand dollars to print 32 books.

For example, the fans of Jack Vance published an authoritative 44-set of his collected works, printed and bound similar to an encyclopedia. It was a nonprofit volunteer effort. The "reader's edition" was supposed to cost $1250 a set, but the price ultimately had to rise to $1500 to cover costs. The all-leather "deluxe edition" cost $3000.


There were probably a lot of people still buying it at that price, in sort of a captive market. I'm thinking schools, libraries, et cetera that need to service that population.

Why torture such a noble product as an encyclopedia by putting it in competition with modern internet distribution and price, better that they put it out of it's misery.

What we need are wikipedia ebook devices gets updates via rsync. Something like a Kindle DX with an SD card and wifi.

But how much does it cost to staff the people that actually do the research for it, update the encyclopedia, etc?

Printing books isn't just about printing books. Someone actually has to come up with the contents and this person has to be paid!

I think you've completely missed his point. The digital version has even more content than the print version, but only costs $40.

They're doing digital right. They know that they will sell many more copies of the digital version, because it's digital and because they lowered the price mark.

It is sad for nostalgic reasons, but what a brilliant sign of an amazing feat that we have accomplished since the dawn of the internet age. Print material was the only way to disseminate information for about 500 years and this marks a significant milestone for information distribution in the digital age.

The online version is free for one week beginning March 13, 2012

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