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Encyclopaedia Britannica to end print edition

March 14, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc. announced it will stop publishing print editions of its flagship encyclopedia.

The book form of Encyclopaedia Britannica has been in print since 1768, when it was first published in Edinburgh, Scotland. The company said the printed edition will stop being available when the current stock runs out. However, it will continue to offer digital versions.

Encyclopaedia Britannica officials said the end of the printed, 32-volume set was no surprise.

"This has nothing to do with Wikipedia or Google," Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc. President Jorge Cauz said. "This has to do with the fact that now Britannica sells its digital products to a large number of people."

The printed edition reached its peak in 1990, when 120,000 sets were sold, Cauz said. The company started exploring digital publishing in the 1970s. The first CD-ROM edition was published in 1989 and a version went online in 1994.

The final hardcover encyclopedia set is available for sale at Britannica's website for $1,395.

Online versions of the encyclopedia now serve more than 100 million people around the world and are available on mobile devices, the company said. The encyclopedia has become increasingly social as well, Cauz said, because users can send comments to editors.

Cauz said the book form of the encyclopedia is obsolete when it's printed, whereas the online version is updated continuously.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.