Encyclopedia Britannica to end printed editions

Following in the footsteps of the horse buggy and the film camera...the Encyclopedia Britannica announced Wednesday that it will stop printing hard-copy editions effective immediately.

Some 4000 sets remain...and when those are sold out, another era will come to a close...falling to the digital age of the world wide web.

The Encyclopedia Britannica has been in continuous print since it was first published in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1768. The flagship, 32-volume printed edition, available every two years, was sold for $1400.

"The print edition became more difficult to maintain and wasn't the best physical element to deliver the quality of our database and the quality of our editorial," Jorge Cauz, president of Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., told Reuters.

In recent years, the Encyclopedia Britannica has moved to expand its Internet reference services and move farther into educational products. It first flirted with digital publishing in the 1970s, published a version for computers in 1981 for LexisNexis subscribers and first posted to the Internet in 1994.

"Britannica was one of the first company's to really feel the full impact of technology, maybe twenty years ago, and we have been adapting to it, though it is very difficult at times," Cauz said.

When asked if printed books would still be around in the years to come, Cauz predicted, "print may not completely vanish from the market, but I think it is going to be increasingly less important. Many publications will never have a print analog and will only be printed on digital formats."

Britannica will continue with it's online editions. An online subscription costs around $70 per year and the company recently launched a set of apps ranging between $1.99 and $4.99 per month.