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Saturday, March 17, 2012

But what about the libraries?

Encyclopedia Britannica halts print publication after 244 years

Or so it was announced, just recently.  I can't say it affects me personally, as a person who could not afford either the money or the space to have a set of the grand volumes in my own house.  And if I felt the need to look up anything in the EB, I just headed for a library.

But what happens to the libraries, who are stuck with an edition that is gradually going out of date?  In the past, they budgeted a not insignificant amount to buy a new set, but what do they do now?

There is, of course, going to be a digital edition -- assuming that it won't eventually give way to that unreliable wonder of the WWW age, Wikipedia.  So I guess this means that the libraries will have to budget a not insignificant amount to pay for a subscription, so that patrons can use library computers to look up what they need.

For those who missed it, here is the start of the story -- 

The paper edition of the encyclopedia ends its centuries-long run, but is it a victim or a beneficiary of the digital age?

Its legacy winds back through centuries and across continents, past the birth of America to the waning days of the Enlightenment. It is a record of humanity's achievements in war and peace, art and science, exploration and discovery. It has been taken to represent the sum of all human knowledge.

And now it's going out of print.

The Encyclopedia Britannica has announced that after 244 years, dozens of editions and more than 7,000,000 sets sold, no new editions will be put to paper.

The 32 volumes of the 2010 installment, it turns out, were the last. Future editions will live exclusively online.

Read the full story by Tom McCarthy @

Published Tuesday 13 March 2012 22.18 GMT


Claire G said...

Actually, many public libraries already subscribe to various reference works online, in particular the Oxford books and Encyclopaedia Britannica. I use these daily as a member of Auckland Libraries, and if you are a Wellington Public Library member, you can too:

Joan Druett said...

Thanks for the tip! I thought only university libaries did that. Do you know if WCL subscribe to the online journals, JStor in particular?

Claire G said...

I'm sorry: I don't. If it's anything like Auckland, however, they'll subscribe to at least one major searchable database that has hundreds or thousands of full-text journals from which you can download articles. These tend not to be quite as extensive as the versions university libraries subscribe to, but a wonderful resource nevertheless.

In your line of work you may also enjoy using the Historical Thesaurus that's part of the Oxford English Dictionary database to which WPL subscribes.