How Collaboration Drove Britannica Out of Print


If there were going to be another printed edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, they might consider updating the section about the Earth being round. Perhaps as with networks, planets also require different descriptions for physical and logical attributes. The Earth is flat (in Thomas Friedman’s formulation), and as proof there will not be another printed edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

This seismic shift is just as much about attitudes as technologies. In the communications sector, the term in-favor is “collaboration.” To collaborate is nothing new really, it simply means to work together toward common goal(s). What is new is the fact that we don’t really work together as much as we once did–at least not physically. Collaboration now requires some assistance from technology.

Encyclopedia Britannica announced on March 13 that it would no longer print its iconic books. It is the end of a long distinguished practice. The company actually dates back to 1768. In 1920, Sears, Roebuck and Company brought Britannica to Chicago. It has changed ownership several times since. In 1990, sales reached $650 million, it held dominant market share, had experienced steady growth, and possessed over two centuries of experience in the business. What could possibly go wrong?

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Dave Michels