Encyclopedia Britannica Goes Online: Free For “Web Publishers”

In News on April 21, 2008 at 9:21 am

Haven’t visited TechCrunch in a while since I’ve been busy caught up in a whole lot of other stories, but this one in particular caught my attention. The Encyclopedia Britannica, a poster-child for the inefficiencies of “print vs. online” and “free vs. paid content” debate has decided to go online, giving full access to “web publishers”, a loose term to describe “bloggers, webmasters, and anyone who writes for the Internet.” Geez, Britannica, that’s A LOT OF PEOPLE.

It’ll be interesting to see how this limited-access model works–it’s not as free as Wikipedia in terms of editorial control and access (normal people have to pay $70 a year to access its content). They’re trying to have some semblance of control, but as TechCrunch alludes, Britannica would benefit by opening up their content and become the New and Trustworthy Wikipedia.

This from TechCrunch:

Encyclopedia Britannica often is used in case studies as a definitive example of how new technology can disrupt a business. Everything was great for the nearly 250 year old privately held company until the Internet came around and a Category Five hurricaned on their parade.

According to Comscore, for every page viewed on, 184 pages are viewed on Wikipedia (3.8 billion v. 21 million pave views per month). In short, they are a classic example of the Innovator’s Dilemma (see also the Music Industry).

You can purchase the 32 volume Britannica, which has 65,000 articles and 44 million words, for just $1,400. Or you can access it on the web for $70 per year.

And now, you can get access to the online version for free through a new program called Britannica Webshare – provided that you are a “web publisher.” The definition of a web publisher is rather squishy: “This program is intended for people who publish with some regularity on the Internet, be they bloggers, webmasters, or writers. We reserve the right to deny participation to anyone who in our judgment doesn’t qualify.”

Basically, you sign up, tell them about your site URL and a description, and they review it and decide if you’ll get in. I wonder if Facebook, MySpace and Twitter users are eligible? They all certainly “publish with some regularity on the Internet.”

You can try and register yourself as a web-publisher here.

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