Encyclopaedia Britannica Ends 244-Year-Old Print Edition

Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc., publisher of alphabetized reference works for almost 244 years, will discontinue its print version and go solely online.

The current edition, which costs $1,395 for all 32 volumes, will be the last, the company said today in a statement. No more copies will be made after the 2010 version now in print is sold out, the company said.

“The end of the print set is something we’ve foreseen for some time,” Jorge Cauz, president of Chicago-based Encyclopaedia Britannica, said in the statement. “It’s the latest step in our evolution from the print publisher we were, to the creator of digital learning products we are today.”

Job cuts aren’t planned, according to Tom Panelas, a spokesman. The company hasn’t employed door-to-door salesmen since 1996, he said in an e-mail. Encyclopaedia Britannica was founded in 1768 in Edinburgh, with a three-volume first edition, according to its website.

The company published the first digital version in 1981 and now updates the Britannica.com website daily, competing with newer players like Wikipedia.org, which relies on input from thousands of users for its content.

Print sales in the U.S. peaked at 120,000 copies in 1990, the New York Times reported earlier. They now account for less than 1 percent of revenue. The company generates about 85 percent of its sales from curriculum products and the rest from website subscriptions, the newspaper said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andy Fixmer in Los Angeles at afixmer@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo at apalazzo@bloomberg.net

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