Those coolly authoritative, gold-lettered reference books that were once sold door-to-door by a fleet of traveling salesmen and displayed as proud fixtures in American homes will be discontinued, company executives said.In an acknowledgment of the realities of the digital age — and of competition from the Web site Wikipedia — Encyclopaedia Britannica will focus primarily on its online encyclopedias and educational curriculum for schools. The last print version is the 32-volume 2010 edition, which weighs 129 pounds and includes new entries on global warming and the Human Genome Project.
The Britannica, the oldest continuously published encyclopedia in the English language, has become a luxury item with a $1,395 price tag. It is frequently bought by embassies, libraries and research institutions, and by well-educated, upscale consumers who felt an attachment to the set of bound volumes. Only 8,000 sets of the 2010 edition have been sold, and the remaining 4,000 have been stored in a warehouse until they are bought.
The 2010 edition had more than 4,000 contributors, including Arnold Palmer (who wrote the entry on the Masters tournament) and Panthea Reid, professor emeritus at Louisiana State University and author of the biography “Art and Affection: A Life of Virginia Woolf” (who wrote about Virginia Woolf).