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Encyclopedia Britannica Stopped Printing - Is It A Victory of Bit Over Atom?
Encyclopedia Britannica Stopped Printing - Is It A Victory of Bit Over Atom?
By: Bikram K Singh

Physicist Dr. Michio Kaku in one of his books (or perhaps in one of his several talks) described how Moor’s law would cause the end of digital computing and how quantum computing will take over. This, he loosely, termed as “revenge of an atom”, but at the moment bits any bytes are taking over everything around us. The case in point is the decision of the iconic Encyclopedia Britannica to shutdown its print version.(And before you point out, I must say that Dr. Kaku was not suggesting that computing would be dead. In the contrary he suggested that computing would be much faster in the world of quantum computing, only our dependence on silicon will be over).

The great encyclopedia was in print since 1768, and it consisted of 32 volumes. It was one of the finest creations of the Industrial revolution era, and it stood test of time, but only thing it couldn’t defeat was the power of people, even with its huge army of content experts.

You and Your Neighbours have more Knowledge than A Nobel Prize Winner

Since1990s, the demand for 32-volume was going down, but the lethal blow was served by Wikipedia, rather by you. This may bring smile on the face of James Surowiecki, who popularized the concept of wisdom of crowd and crowdsourcing in his book titled The Wisdom of Crowd: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations”, but this is not necessarily a very good news.

Crowd can be right some of the times, but not all the times. You will not like to replace your doctor by crowd-sourced suggestions. The power of an expert is, undeniably, way beyond the collective power of masses.

It is ironic that when I had to search for information about Encyclopedia Britannica, I went to Wikipedia, the crowd-sourced encyclopedia which hammered the thickest nail in the Encyclopedia Britannica’s coffin.


Source: Statista

The New Face of Old Encyclopedia

If you need a quick info, you surely should go to Wikipedia, but for reliable information from an authority Wikipedia is not the place to go to. This is where a trusted source like Encyclopedia Britannica comes in.

The decision to go digital is a decision well taken. In the world where people spent more time on computers, mobiles, and tablets, and less time on printed books, to survive, an Encyclopedia needed to go digital. The encyclopedia had a digital presence for many years, but as said by its executive, by removing the printed version off the shelf, the company will be able to focus its resources on the digital version.

Encyclopedia Britannica may have ceased to exist in the atom format (printed), but it has prolonged its life by going digital, and this will not agonize the famous physicist and professor Dr. Michio Kaku, who is a firm believer of development, even if atom has lost its war against 0s and 1s (Zeros and Ones).