Encyclopaedia Britannica Top Stop Printing Books. Did You Have a Set as a Kid?

The legendary reference books will no longer be printed.The legendary reference books will no longer be printed.We've reached the end of an era: Encyclopaedia Britannica, a reference staple that took pride of place on bookshelves throughout the English-speaking world for nearly two and a half centuries, has announced that it will stop printing books.

"For 244 years, the thick volumes of the Encyclopaedia Britannica have stood on the shelves of homes, libraries, and businesses everywhere, a source of enlightenment as well as comfort to their owners and users around the world," the company said on its blog. "Today we've announced that we will discontinue the 32-volume printed edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica when our current inventory is gone."

The latest edition costs $1,395 per 32-book collection; 70 million copies have been published since it was first published as a three-volume set in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1768. But print copies account for only one percent of its sales, according to CNN. The bulk of the company's revenue comes from selling online learning tools, curriculum products, and online subscriptions, and smartphone apps.

"The print set is an icon. But it's an icon that doesn't do justice to how much we've changed over the years," Britannica president Jorge Cauz told CNN. "Updating dozens of books every two years now seems so pedestrian. The younger generation consumes data differently now, and we want to be there."

He insisted that the decision "has nothing to do with Wikipedia or Google." "Everyone will want to call this the end of an era, and I understand that," Cauz added. "But there's no sad moment for us. I think outsiders are more nostalgic about the books than I am."

My youngest kids don't even know what an encyclopedia is, though they've seen the sets I grew up with, sitting high up on shelves in their grandparents' house. My teenagers are likely to walk past a set on the way to the computer, where they'll access information online less time than it takes to pull a book off the shelf and leaf through it. And it's not just the younger generation that access information differently now: I'm more likely to search an online dictionary than turn to the one gathering dust on my desk.

Still, I'm feeling nostalgic about the end of a tried-and-true authoritative source. Sure, it'll still be available online instead of on the shelf. But somehow, "Wikipedia Brown, Boy Detective" just doesn't have the same know-it-all ring to it.

Copyright © 2012 Yahoo Inc.

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