I knew this day would come and am actually surprised it didn’t arrive sooner. On Thursday it was announced that there would be no more copies of the physical edition of The Encyclopedia Britannica.
Many years ago, before I became a literary agent, I was the publisher of The World Almanac. During the years I was there its circulation increased from a million copies a year to two million copies a year. Indeed, my colleagues thought the sky was the limit, but hearing the initial stirrings about this strange phenomenon “the Internet” I had a feeling things were going to change.
Change is exciting; in this case though, it is also kind of sad. As a kid, I remember always being told to refer to the encyclopedia or the dictionary or the thesaurus when I needed to know something. Now, at least for the latter two, I always go online. And the time has finally arrived that if I want to use an encyclopedia, I will use the Internet as well.
Soon there will cease to be printed copies of the phone book that will (or has that happened already?) and then, what’s next?
Last week over dinner with a client and old friend, she asked me if I thought there would come a time when physical copies of books wouldn’t exist. I replied that I certainly didn’t think so; but for reference books of any kind, I do believe that end is upon us.
What do you think?