We read with sadness last month the news that the Encyclopædia Britannica, after 244 years of continuous publication, has decided to stop producing a print edition. The first edition, published in Edinburgh between 1761 and 1768, fitted comfortably into three volumes. The last “dead tree” version of the venerable reference work (published in America since the early 1900s) is the thirty-two-volume 2010 edition. “Some people will feel sad about it and nostalgic about it,” said Jorge Cauz, President of Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. “But we have a better tool now. The website is continuously updated, it’s much more expansive and it has multimedia.”

Two points. First, the name “Encyclopædia Britannica” refers to two quite different enterprises. Until around 1950, it was a great reference work, written by experts, edited by people who cared about clarity of...

 
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