Due to the incredible decrease in sales, Encyclopædia Britannica has decided that its 2010 edition will be the last one released. Their sales have dropped a whole lot in the computer age due to much better online encyclopedias such as Wikipedia. The peak year of the Britannica sales was in 1990, just prior to the dawn of internet, in which they sold 120 000 copies. In 1996, when the internet had started to spread, the sales were down to 40 000. This final 2010 edition was only printed in 12 000 copies, a tenth of that sold twenty years prior, and so far only 8 000 have been sold.

Ofcourse, this is a sad and strange moment and it feels sort of like an old era has passed. Still, I am glad that they are ready to realise that they are no longer needed. It was long argued that print encyclopedias such as the Britannica were still needed in spite of the new media, that these were somehow of higher quality. It has however been shown now and again that in fair comparisons, there is nothing that makes the Britannica better than free of charge and user friendly encyclopedias such as Wikipedia.

The main problem with Wikipedia may well be that anyone can change it, but in my experience (and the objective) Wikipedia very rarely has incredibly invalid information for very long. Obviously you must always be skeptical towards all information, both when it comes to Wikipedia and when it comes to the prestigious Britannica. What Britannica has in quality control, it lacks in updates. For obvious reasons, new information comes on Wikipedia much more quickly than a new Britannica edition is released, and for every new Britannica release you must buy a new one, while Wikipedia is always available for free.

Rest in peace, Britannica. You will be missed, for nostalgic reasons more than anything else.

ars technica · The Jakarta Post · The New York Times

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