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Encyclopaedia Britannica drops print edition

Joab Jackson | March 14, 2012
After 244 years, the Encyclopaedia Britannica will cease publishing its flagship encyclopedia and concentrate on its digital offerings.

Cauz admitted that the company must work harder to keep its name in front of its potential audience. By moving entirely online, Britannica is taking on online giant Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia written entirely by volunteers. Over the years, Britannica has changed the way it collects and edits information in a way that more closely resembles Wikipedia's community-driven effort. The online Britannica is constantly updated. It includes multimedia assets such as sound recordings and video. It provides a forum for users to contribute additions, which then get considered by in-house editors. It also solicits contributions from notable world figures, such as Bill Clinton, Desmond Tutu and Tony Hawk.

More than 85 percent of sales in the digital realm come from educational institutions, which buy bulk subscriptions for students. Over the next few years, however, Britannica wants to attract more general users for its apps and online services. "We have this as a challenge. Britannica is profitable in the educational market, but in the consumer space, we need to do more to make sure people have access to the encyclopedia," Cauz said. The company has estimated that each month people make between 1.2 billion and 1.5 billion search engine queries "for which Britannica would have the perfect answer," he said. To this end, the company is working with Google and other search engines to make its material more visible in search results.

To build awareness of the online offering, Britannica will also offer its entire online encyclopedia free for one week, beginning Wednesday.


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