Microsoft and Google kill 244-year-old Encyclopedia Britannica

About Latest Posts Motley Fool StaffThe articles listed on this page are compiled by our team of Foolish Writers and …

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

Personal library shelves are about to get a lot lighter. After 244 years, Encyclopedia Britannica is putting an end to its print editions.

Maybe you didn't think that they were still putting out bulky 32-volume sets of the iconic reference books. You're not alone. It's been largely downhill since sales peaked when it sold 120,000 printed sets in 1990. It only cranked out 12,000 sets in 2010, and nearly a third of those $1,500 sets have yet to be sold.

It was inevitable.

The Internet made the volumes obsolete. Who needs annual updates when free online resources are updated perpetually?

The World Wide Web isn't perfect. Anyone can edit a Wikipedia entry. There's no telling where a Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) link will take you. However, it's a small trade-off for having access to information as quickly as it takes a webpage to load.

Britannica will live on in digital form. The privately held company has actually been profitable in recent years, largely because 85% of its revenue now stems from the largely digital education market.

Consumers still should have seen this coming long before everyone flocked online. After all, sales peaked in 1990 and the Internet — at the time — consisted mostly of online services used by a sliver of tech buffs.

We can probably point to the PC as the first real nail in the coffin of Britannica's printed set. Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT) Encarta offered an entire encyclopedia on disc at a fraction of the cost of World Book and Britannica publications.

However, Encarta was also no match for the Internet. Microsoft eventually shuttered Encarta — even killing off the online edition three years ago.

Google and Wikipedia simply have labour advantages that Britannica and even the curated Encarta lack. Volunteers contribute to Wikipedia for free. Google has it even better, as advertisers are willing to bid up keywords to pay for leads on queries.

So congratulations, Microsoft, Google and Wikipedia. You've killed the print edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Now which one of you can tell me where I can go to dispose of my ancient set?

Attention: If you are looking for ASX investing ideas, look no further than "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2012." In this free report, Investment Analyst Dean Morel names his top pick for 2012…and beyond. Click here now to find out the name of this small but growing telecommunications company. But hurry – the report is free for only a limited period of time.

More Reading:

More on ⏸️ Investing

A white and black robot in the form of a human being stands in front of a green graphic holding a laptop and discussing robotics and automation ASX shares
Technology Shares

Joining the revolution: How I'd invest in ASX AI shares right now

Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) could usher in a new industrial revolution. Here’s how you can invest in it.

Read more »

Close up of baby looking puzzled
Retail Shares

What has happened to the Baby Bunting (ASX:BBN) share price this year?

It's been a volatile year so far for the Aussie nursery retailer. We take a closer look

Read more »

woman holds sign saying 'we need change' at climate change protest
ETFs

3 ASX ETFs that invest in companies fighting climate change

If you want to shift some of your investments into more ethical companies, exchange-traded funds can offer a good option

Read more »

a jewellery store attendant stands at a cabinet displaying opulent necklaces and earrings featuring diamonds and precious stones.
⏸️ Investing

The Michael Hill (ASX: MHJ) share price poised for growth

Investors will be keeping an eye on the Michael Hill International Limited (ASX: MHJ) share price today. The keen interest…

Read more »

ASX shares buy unstoppable asx share price represented by man in superman cape pointing skyward
⏸️ Investing

The Atomos (ASX:AMS) share price is up 15% in a week

The Atomos (ASX: AMS) share price has surged 15% this week. Let's look at what's ahead as the company build…

Read more »

Two people in suits arm wrestle on a black and white chess board.
Retail Shares

How does the Temple & Webster (ASX:TPW) share price stack up against Nick Scali (ASX:NCK)?

How does the Temple & Webster (ASX: TPW) share price stack up against rival furniture retailer Nick Scali Limited (ASX:…

Read more »

A medical researcher works on a bichip, indicating share price movement in ASX tech companies
Healthcare Shares

The Aroa (ASX:ARX) share price has surged 60% since its IPO

The Aroa (ASX:ARX) share price has surged 60% since the Polynovo (ASX: PNV) competitor listed on the ASX in July.…

Read more »

asx investor daydreaming about US shares
⏸️ How to Invest

How to buy US shares from Australia right now

If you have been wondering how to buy US shares from Australia to gain exposure from the highly topical market,…

Read more »