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Britannica v Wikipedia - which site will you trust?
Sunday, 18th March 2012
Encyclopaedia Britannica will no longer be published in hard copy and will be available in digital format only. Unlike its rival Wikipedia, it will continue to written and fact-checked by experts and will not be free. There's an annual fee for the online version or a monthly charge for the iPad app.
Librarians will soon be able to make more room on their book shelves, after the announcement that that stalwart of academic reference books, Encyclopaedia Britannica, will no longer be published in hard copy and will be available in digital format only. It follows the trend in business-to-business (B2B) publishing, as reported by LiveWire here.
In print since 1768, the 32 volumes of the iconic encyclopaedia will not be printed again once current stocks run out. Those of us baby boomers who were brought up to check facts in Britannica learnt the art of serendipity by browsing the tomes. For the digital native generation, crowd sourced information in the form of Wikipedia has of course taken over that role, although as all information professionals know, Wikipedia cannot be relied upon for accuracy. Britannica articles have always been written by experts in their field and have been fact-checked by a team of editors.
Keen to be seen as an experienced digital publisher, the Britannica press release stresses the company’s digital credentials: in 1981 it developed a digital version for LexisNexis, moved to CD-ROM in 1989 and claims to have launched the first online encyclopaedia in 1994.
As paidcontent points out, the writing has been on the wall for the print edition of Britannica for a while. Since 2006, digital has been the largest share of the company’s turnover, and the publisher is now concentrating on competing with its main online rival Wikipedia.
It is essentially a battle between expert editing and unreliable crowd sourcing, since Britannica will not be offering a freely accessible product like Wikipedia – at least not in the long term. To promote Britannica.com, users are able to access the service for a week-long free trial. After that, the cost will be £49.95 per year. The iPad app, which is available for children, libraries and researchers is priced at £1.99 per month.
About this article:
By Penny Crossland
Penny Crossland is the owner of CH Business Research, a consultancy specialising in investigative research and market intelligence. Penny conducts research projects for clients from a variety of industry sectors, including financial services, management and security consultancy, FMCG, publishing and retail. Fluent in German, she also translates academic papers and corporate material.
Before establishing her business in 2001, Penny was Research Manager at OC&C Strategy Consultants in London. Penny graduated from Bristol University with a degree in German and Politics and has a Masters degree from London University in contemporary German Literature. She became interested in all aspects of business information through working for an industrial market research company in New York.
Penny can be reached at email@example.com
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