So, farewell then Encyclopaedia Britannia
Encyclopaedia Britannia is to cease publishing as a paper based product. This announcement has been twenty years coming for me. Almost the first commercial organisation to have its future questioned by the rise of the internet was the Britannia, a vast unwieldy publishing monolith from a previous age. It seemed obvious, even on day one of the web, that something that took dozens of years to produce a new edition and which had to be printed and shipped on thousands of tons of paper was vulnerable to this new knowledge distribution system.
And the problem with the EB used to split commentators on the subject. Some looked forward to a day when all knowledge was in the ether and instantly updated, others bemoaned the loss of scholarship and history that such a move would entail. To tell the truth, back in those days none of us knew what we were talking about.
So it has finally come to pass. In a world rapidly moving to a new phase of digital publishing the inevitable has occured. No more paper volumes. No more door to door salespeople maybe. But not the end of the Encyclopaedia Britannia. Not yet, anyway. Now it just has to compete with everything else published digitally, including its baby brother, Wikipedia (which even dropped the glorious and mediaeval ‘aedia’).
The king is dead, long live the king.