This has been widely publicised already today but I thought it was a noteworthy event to record.
The Encyclopaedia Britannica will cease its printing the 32-volume encyclopeadia after nearly a quarter of a millennium (244 years to be exact). You could have called the Britannica the old school version of Wikipedia which was updated once in what would seem in an eternity compared to the rapid speed that Wikipedia seems to be updated (sometimes in real time as major events unfold).
I remember that my family did not have an encyclopaedia and I would have to go around the corner to a generous neighbour’s house and look up something in one of those huge volumes. I don’t recall having much success finding something of the more obscure things I had been given as projects (which could perhaps say something about the subject matter provided). However, as digital content became more mainstream through things such as Encarta 95 on CD-ROM and later Encyclopaedia Britannica on CD-ROM the writing on the wall was becoming much clearer for printed reference material (more so when DVD versions arrived). Permanent and ubiquitous broadband connections removed the constraints of physical storage
So, is this an end of an era?
Personally, I don’t think so. Recording and maintaining such a vast body of information is no small task and not something that will cease in the immediate future. The process of a medium coming into existence, evolving and being replaced is not a foreign concept and it can either sink a business unable to adapt or see a business flourish as it adapts to the new format. We’re seeing Amazon doing incredibly well with e-book sales while traditional book sales are under threat with many physical book stores (like Borders) going out of business or closing down unprofitable shopfronts.
I can only imagine how many trees have been spared now that the Encyclopaedia Britannica won’t be printed in the future.