The Death of Encyclopaedia Britannica

March 14,2012
Erin Dower( )

I must admit, when I heard the news that Encyclopaedia Britannica will no longer be printed, I felt like I do when I learn that an old movie star who I thought had died a long time ago has just died.

Nonetheless, as a lover of published books and history, it's sad and strange to me that the renowned 244-year-old encyclopedia series has been pulled from the presses. (The Britannica company said it will focus on its online product.)

What adult these days can forget growing up with their family's classy-looking set of encyclopedias lined up neatly on their bookshelf (sometimes, the bookcase came with the encyclopedia series!)? The smell of the books? The excitement and challenge, as a child, of having to search the alphabetized series to find the right volume containing that little blurb on wallabies -- and hoping it has a picture!

Sigh. Like so many others in this digital age, we've just got to take this casualty in stride.

Do you worry about the future of printed books and libraries?

What memories do you have of encyclopedias (or any kind of book) that can never be replaced by the online/e-reader experience?

What sources do you and your child rely on when it's time to work on a school report? (Helpful hint: FE's sister site, Infoplease.com, is an awesome, authoritative resource.)

Bye-bye, Britannica.

Encyclopaedia Britannica (1957 edition shown here) will no longer be printed