After 244 Years, The Encyclopedia Britannica Goes Out of Print (A Look Back)

In light of yesterday's news that the Encyclopedia Britannica was going out of print (no surprise there), I thought it would be fun to go dig up one of the early commercial - just to show how things changed. It dates to 1985, and this is the iconic one that features the kid running through the rain to get to the closed library.

To be honest, this is more of a "what took them so long" type of story than anything else. The Encyclopedia Britannica has long since been replaced by Wikipedia, which is both free and more convenient. The video that you see above hasn't been true for at lest 5 years now, maybe more.

That commercial pitched 32 volume set that now costs over $400. Anyone who could have bought it has long since gotten a computer and an internet connection, which is a far better value.

4 thoughts on “After 244 Years, The Encyclopedia Britannica Goes Out of Print (A Look Back)

  1. I pestered my father to buy me a Britannica in about 1970. That was just before they came out with the expensive add-ons like Children’s Britannica and Yearbooks. It came in handy now and again but it was never detailed enough for specialised projects, and too cumbersome for looking up spur-of-the-moment facts. Eventually it got passed on to some niece or nephew.

    My father-in-law used to extol the 1911 edition, which he regarded as gospel on anything other than the few minor advances in science which had been made since then.

    My verdict? It was a great idea in 1771, but it was going downhill from there.

  2. What I never understood, and still don’t, is why class products like the Britannica and pianos are sold like hot Onega and Hanilton (sic) watches in a back alley. Growing up we were too poor for even a F&W but in the late 80’s, or maybe early 90’s, I stopped by a Britannica booth and enquired about purchasing a set. After 15 minutes of getting nowhere with one of the most disreputable salesmen I’ve ever dealt with I finally said, “Look, I want to buy a set. If it’s not too expensive I may buy it today. But, if the next words out of your mouth aren’t, ‘Mr Drang a complete set with dictionary volumes will cost you $XXX’, I’m telling you I’m walking.” I walked. He wouldn’t give me an honest price. I checked my wallet in my back pocket as I edged away just to see if it was still there. Not handmade jewelry, not generators out of the back of a truck in an empty lot, Britannicas!

    As a kid I practically lived in libraries. That experience was like walking down a street as a grown man and crossing paths with a pimp trying to rent you a scrag that used to be the cute little girl you’d had a crush on in 10th grade.

    ‘Shame’ doesn’t quite describe what happened to that company.

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