Thursday, March 15, 2012


WHEN IN DOUBT—“LOOK IT UP” IN The Encyclopaedia Britannica.  This is how “the sum of human knowledge” (11th edition) was advertised in the May 1913 issue of National Geographic Magazine [1]. In those days—unless you had the current edition on your bookshelves—you either had to go to a friend who did or you had to find a library stuffed with the 29 volumes.

The first edition with some 2,500 pages was published and printed in Edinburgh in 1768 by “a society of gentlemen in Scotland” [2]. The final print edition of 2010 has 32 volumes, containing, in addition to its huge content volume, 2,350 pages without any encyclopedic articles: these pages merely fill the two-volume index.

After 244 years Encyclopaedia Britannica is going out of print, but remains accessible online [3]. The entire content is available for free for one week (March 13 - 20, 2012):

Today, when in doubt, one probably googles a subject of interest before diving into encyclopedia volumes. Further, the internet-based open-source encyclopedia Wikipedia features over 3.5 million articles in its English-language version [4]. Wikipedia continues to expand, growing via updated and new contributions in  English and other languages. You as the user may became the author of a new article.

A comparison between the differing publication models of  Encyclopaedia Britannica and Wikipedia can easily turn into a discussion of authority versus cloud sourcing. Which resource is more reliable? When in doubt, consult both. When knowing more, contribute!

[1] Wikipedia about Encyclopædia Britannica:
[2] Encyclopaedia Britannica:
[3] Julie Bosman: After 244 Years, Encyclopaedia Britannica Stops the Presses. March 13, 2012 [].
[4] Encyclopædia Britannica about Wikipedia:

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