April 2012 | Nate Pedersen

Encyclopaedia Britannica

britannica.jpgLast month, Reuters reported that the Encyclopaedia Britannica was ending publication of its printed editions to focus exclusively on providing digital content.  Sales of the 32 volume sets, priced at $1,400, only made up a paltry 1% of Britannica's overall revenue.  Company officials announced that they would continue to sell print editions until their stock of 4,000 sets ran out. 

Well, that day is almost here.  And it's coming quicker than anyone expected.

Yesterday, the New York Times reported that Britannica is experiencing a "sales boom" after the announcement that they would cease publication of their printed editions.  Before the announcement, Britannica averaged sales of 60 sets per day.  In the last three weeks that average has more than doubled, with approximately 150 sets heading out the door every afternoon.  Britannica's meager sales force has been so overwhelmed with calls that the chief marketing officer has stepped in to help answer the phones.  Less than 1,000 sets remain to be sold. 

Get 'em while they're hot, folks.

And sell 'em while they're hot too.

Every bookseller knows about the great inventory drag that is the Encyclopedia. 32 hefty volumes, weighing in at about 130 pounds of quickly outdated information.  Excepting, of course, the classic 11th edition from 1910 - 11, which holds its value (both monetarily and scholarly) quite well. For more about the significance of this classic edition, you can read this excellent article from Forrest Proper at Joslin Hall

In the meantime, I think I'll go pour a glass of wine as a libation to the Britannica and spend an evening browsing through my personal copies of the 11th edition.  They make for fine fireside reading.