Britannica experiences run on final print edition
Apr 06, 2012 (Chicago Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The decision to end publication of the printed edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica after 244 years has turned it into a best seller.
When the Chicago-based company announced March 14 that the printed version of Britannica was being shelved in favor of its subscription Web site, there were about 4,000 sets left in a Kentucky warehouse -- an annual supply in recent years. Now less than 800 sets remain, and they are going fast.
"The speed at which the sets are going is a little surprising," said Jorge Cauz, Encyclopaedia Britannica's president. "It's highly likely we will see it all depleted over the next two to three weeks."
About 12,000 sets of the final 32-volume 15th edition were produced in 2010, a version that first rolled off the presses in 1974. The sets sell for $1,395 each on the Britannica Web site. They are already being marked up by about $2,000 on Web sites like eBay and Amazon, where opportunistic entrepreneurs are apparently looking to get a jump on history.
"There are resellers selling it for a lot more money than what we're selling it for," Cauz said. "It's an indication that people are looking at it as a collector's item, and maybe there's not enough information that they still can buy it from us."
In 1990, Britannica sold about 100,000 sets of encyclopedias, its best year ever. While the pace of sales in recent weeks may rival the heyday, Cauz isn't interested in reconsidering his decision. The company is committed to focusing on its Web site, where about 500,000 subscribers pay $70 per year for full online access to Encyclopaedia Britannica.
In the week following the announcement, about 1,000 subscribers a day signed up after a free online trial, according to Cauz. But he understands the appeal of owning the last print edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica. In fact, he bought two sets -- one for himself, and one for his siblings.
"I have always liked print sets and I will have one at home as a good memento from Britannica," Cauz said.
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