Encyclopaedia Britannica moves to app subscription model

Just over a month ago, we reported that the revered Encyclopaedia Britannica had decided to bring an end to its 244-year history of printed volumes, moving instead to a purely digital future, based around its web-based offering and a smartphone app.

Its new app has now launched, and introduces a remarkably affordable subscription model, compared with the relatively vast price of the encyclopaedia in book form, and even undercuts the subscription cost to its own website resources.

While the app itself is free, full access to the encyclopaedia and its associated resources will cost £1.99 a month in the UK (around $3.20 USD or €1.20 EUR). By comparison, access to the Britannica Online site costs £1.75 per week based on a monthly subscription, or £0.99 per week based on an annual subscription. The cost of Britannica’s last printed edition was a whopping £1,195 ($1900 USD / €1460 EUR).


Not exactly pocket-sized.

Some features of the app will be free, if you don’t like the idea of paying for a subscription; the first 100 words of each article are freely available, for example, while the most popular encyclopaedia entries will also be available to read in their entirety without charge.

But Britannica hopes that an emphasis on the quality of information, compared with the likes of Wikipedia or dubiously-sourced websites, will encourage users to pay up the relatively modest sum for a subscription to its content. The managing director of Encyclopaedia Britannica UK told TechRadar: “This app will provide access to our expertly edited and curated content for millions of people and continue our commitment to education in the mobile age. The release of the Britannica app also marks another important step in the transformation of the Britannica business.”

You can download the app from the iTunes App Store right now; an Android version will arrive “by the end of the year”.  

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9 Comments

Humm bit strange that.
Whilst I think it's cool, £1.99/month, I rarely need to look up something so it'd be more useful to me to say have a credit system, like £1.99 for 100 credits and credits have a 5 year life or so and looking up something costs a credit.

n_K said,
Humm bit strange that.
Whilst I think it's cool, £1.99/month, I rarely need to look up something so it'd be more useful to me to say have a credit system, like £1.99 for 100 credits and credits have a 5 year life or so and looking up something costs a credit.

That's like paying for every search query you enter on a search engine. Not done.

kInG aLeXo said,
I think that will be like a wikipedia which you can cite ?

No, never a good idea to cite wikipedia for academic papers. In fact, I think the APA says no to it. Not sure about the MLA.

briangw said,

No, never a good idea to cite wikipedia for academic papers. In fact, I think the APA says no to it. Not sure about the MLA.


I meant we could use Britannica like we use wikipedia to find information quickly, but it will have an advantage over wikipedia that we can cite it (I believe so atleast).

kInG aLeXo said,
I think that will be like a wikipedia which you can cite ?

Yep, the problem with Wikipedia is that is has no reputation for being reliable, whereas Britannica does.

But as is always the case with citing, the importance is the author and its current relevance, and not just whether it has a generally overarching reputation.

Wikipedia and Britannica should be seen as places for being introduced to information and getting general overviews of topics - it is not, and never will be the end of research. Reliable information that is specialised and current costs and isn't freely reprintable.

When I was born my parents bought an expensive set for me, the Britannica and the red Britannica Junior set and a blue set called The Annals of America. One of my earliest memories of using them is running into the house to frantically look up frogs because I had heard the myth that they cause warts and I had picked one up outside (it was frightened and left me with a wet hand). I used them all the way into high school and I loved reading about stuff in my free time. I could never have imagined the internet.

I still have those sets on the bookshelf behind me right now. They're from 1977 so not all that useful anymore especially with today's technology, but I wouldn't part with them for anything.

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