Britannica Kills Print Encyclopedia: Will You Use the Online Version?


Image from: S. Miroff / Shutterstock

Yesterday, Britannica announced that that the 2010 Encyclopaedia Britannica will be the last one that is printed in hard copy. Going forward, Britannica will publish content to Britannica Online in lieu of their traditional, 32-volume print edition. In fact, starting yesterday, the company is allowing free access to the Britannica Online.

In a blog post by Jorge Caus, President of Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc., he notes, “In fact, today our digital database is much larger than what we can fit in the print set. And it is up to date because we can revise it within minutes anytime we need to, and we do it many times each day.” All fair points, but my question is: are people really using Britannica Online?

I decided to look at the Unique Visitors and Visits to the site over the past 2 years. They certainly have a very high volume of visitors, wracking  up 1,069,660 UV’s in January alone. Traffic varies greatly depending on the season, with highest numbers when school is in full swing, and lower number over winter break and summer vacation.

UVs and Visits to Britannica Online

It will be interesting to monitor traffic to Britannica Online over the next year or so, to see how many people will make the switch from hard-copy to online reference material. What do you think? Was going digital a smart move for Britannica?

About Kendra Bissonnette:
Kendra comes to Compete to work in the Online Marketing department as the social media co-op. Kendra is currently a student at Northeastern studying Communications and Interactive Media. Find Kendra on Twitter @KNBissonnette.

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  1. Luca Zanzi

    Another story of a once great company adapting to changing business models… 10 years too late.

    No, I will not be visiting. I have in the past, several times, trying to make myself like Britannica Online, but it falls short of Wikipedia.

    What people often need is quick information. Searching, say, “Venezuela” on Wikipedia will take users to the first relevant page. Britannica instead takes us to a menu listing “Venezuela, Flag of Venezuela…”. This is one additional, unnecessary step.

    Furthermore, while people make jokes of Jimmy Wales’ pleas for donations every year, Britannica Online contains more ads than an average pornographic website.

    Wikipedia, while fallible due to its nature, also encourages citations whenever possible. This is an advantage for researchers looking for primary sources, whereas Britannica, due to its nature as an encyclopaedia, lists on citations. Not to be nitpicky, but I trust a website with citations more than one where I’m supposed to trust an unseen and unknown editor.

    Sorry, Britannica, I read every single tome of yours as a bored child, but I need my information to be complete, fast, and free of hassles.