Reference book firm Encyclopaedia Britannica has decided to stop publishing its famous and weighty 32-volume print edition after 244 years of tradition.
Encyclopaedia Britannica will now focus on digital expansion amid rising competition from websites such as Wikipedia.
The company, which used to sell its encyclopedias door-to-door, now generates almost 85% its revenue from online sales.
It recently launched a digital version of its encyclopedias for tablet PCs.
“The sales of printed encyclopedias have been negligible for several years,” said Jorge Cauz president of Encyclopaedia Britannica.
“We knew this was going to come.”
Companies across the globe have been trying to boost their online presence in a bid to cash in on the fast-growing market.
Various newspapers, magazines and even book publishers have been coming up with online versions of their products as an increasing number of readers access information on high-tech gadgets such as tablet PCs and smartphones.
Britannica said while its decision to focus on online editions was influenced by the shift in consumer pattern, the ability to update content at a short notice also played a big role.
“A printed encyclopedia is obsolete the minute that you print it,” Jorge Cauz said.
“Whereas our online edition is updated continuously.”
At the same time, frequent users of the encyclopedia said they preferred using the online version more than the print one.
“We have to answer thousands of questions each month through chat, through telephone, through email and we have to do that as quickly as humanly possible,” said Richard Reyes-Gavilan of Brooklyn Public Library.
“In many instances doing a keyword search in an online resource is simply a lot faster then standing up looking at the index of the Britannica and then finding the appropriate volume.”
Encyclopaedia Britannica, the company, has largely moved away from its encyclopedia work focusing most of its energies in recent years on educational software.