March 14, 2012

Here Lies Enyclopaedia Britannica: 1768 – 2012


Remember back in the day when your parents would pay regular installments just so their home could house a proud set of Britannica encyclopaedias?  Well, 244 years after they first went to press, the iconic tomes have been laid to rest. The cause of death was a lethal combination of Wikipedia and the internet. But this should come as no surprise, considering that the encyclopaedias have been on the decline for many years. Fact is these reference books went out of style back when people started surfing the wave of information that came with the internet.  They are too heavy (an entire set weighs over 100 pounds), take up too much space and are too slow on the uptake to remain relevant in today’s world.

Still, it’s with a little twinge of sadness that we watch our old friend go. The last set of encyclopaedias will feature an update for the year 2010, and then it will be goodbye forever. But of course this doesn’t entirely mark the end for Encyclopaedia Britannica. The company will focus its attention on its online encyclopedias and educational tools for schools. President of Encycolpaedia Britannica, Jorge Cauz, has been quoted saying of this future direction, “It’s a rite of passage in this new era… Some people will feel sad about it and nostalgic about it. But we have a better tool now. The website is continuously updated, it’s much more expansive and it has multimedia.”

The advent and advancement of the internet and particularly social media has been the demise of many industries. I suspect that in future we will see more print publications become digitized in order to remain relevant. In the words of Charles Darwin, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

About the Author

Tetlanyo Lekalake
Tetlanyo Lekalake


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