Britannica goes online- for free

Encyclopaedia Britannica has pulled a coup by offering its entire content on the net, for free. Judging by the first day’s traffic, it will be a popular site. As of yesterday afternoon, was down, overwhelmed by information hungry consumers who know a great deal when they see one.

The site had received millions of hits on Tuesday, soon after the company announced it was making all of its 32 volumes (and 44 million words) available on the Internet, at no charge.

"We’re a victim of our own success," said Jorge Cauz, senior vice president for sales and marketing of Inc., who is no doubt thrilled at the response. The company is employing extra staff and hardware to remedy the overload as soon as possible.

In the meantime, set a bookmark for for future reference. Once the furor subsides, the site will prove to be an excellent source of timely and well-researched information on almost any subject. Britannica will earn revenue from advertising on the site, and if the first day’s traffic is any indication, they have made a very wise move. It also shows that the dayof encyclopedias in book and even CD form are numbered, as web access offers the best way to publish and update reference material.

Britannica’s sales of printed sets have dropped by an estimated 80 percent since a high of about $800 million in 1990. It was first published in 1768 in Scotland, and has been based in the U.S. for 65 years.