Encyclopedia Britannica Gives Up Print. I Remember the World Book.

The Encyclopedia Britannica announced they will stop their paper edition, choosing instead to offer only a digital compilation of everything. in. the. entire. universe!  (Take that Wiki!)

Your moment of Going Like Sixty zen:  When I was growing up, I used to pull down a volume of the encyclopedia and browse it, occasionally reading an entire entry.

We didn’t have the Encyclopedia Britannica at our house. We were loyal Americans. None of that Brit stuff. We had the World Book Encyclopedia. (Look! They have a blog! a WordPress blog! just like Going Like Sixty!)

For over 90 years, World Book, Inc. has been committed to publishing encyclopedias and other reference products that meet the highest standards of editorial excellence while keeping pace with the technological developments that define the digital age. The first edition of The World Book Encyclopedia, issued in 1917, set a new direction for encyclopedia publishing. This edition consisted of 8 volumes of 6,300 pages.

Today, the encyclopedia has grown into a 22-volume set consisting of more than 14,000 pages. World Book updates the encyclopedia annually while also producing award-winning topical reference products. Since World Book first appeared, in addition to ensuring its accuracy and up-to-dateness, its editors have worked to make information come alive with clear, interesting writing and informative, inviting illustrations.

While searching for an image, I thought I had lost my marbles. None of the images matched my memory. I KNEW that our encyclopedias were red. And I knew that they weren’t Britannica. Then the World Book Encyclopedia turned up in the results.

Bingo. Yeah, we even called them the “World Book” at our house. In my mind, “World Book” and “Encyclopedia” are synonymous.

World Book is still offering a print edition in case you want to give your child a true educational experience:

The 2012 World Book Encyclopedia:

The World Book Encyclopedia 2012 includes data from the 2010 United States census. More than 1,000 population figures in approximately 380 articles were updated with the results of the 2010 United States census. …

In addition, The World Book Encyclopedia 2012 includes thousands of new, expanded, and revised articles. Among the new and explanded topics are articles on Beyonce, carbon footprint, DNA fingerprinting, Facebook, hoarding, improvised explosive device (IED), text messaging, and zombie.


From Beyonce to zombie. Now that is pretty awesome.

I was such a nerd, I was thrilled when the “annual” edition came. This was a small volume paperback edition that was intended as an “update” to the big hardbound editions. They were published once a year for the previous year. I would snag it and get it all dog-eared from flipping through it.

We bought the binder for the annual update editions and they eventually ended up on the shelf along with the rest of the World Book.

World Book provided tabs to be inserted in the hardbound edition which referenced the update volume and page number.

Yep. I updated the hardbound editions.

Seems to me that “R” or maybe “S” was the largest single letter volume. For sure X, Y, and Z, were lumped together. Not much was written about The X Men, Yahoo or Zombies back when I was a guppy.

I wonder why I lost that thirst for knowledge?  Because when I got to 7th grade, I sure didn’t care much for school.

I’m sorry The Encyclopedia Britannica isn’t in print. But glad The World Book Encyclopedia still is.

Remember all those stereotypes encyclopedia salesman?

the largest fleet of Britannica salesmen was in the US, where the encyclopedia was first marketed in the 1790s; the company’s headquarters moved there in the 1920s. Ten years later, around 2,000 salesmen were selling the Britannica door to door, on a commission of between $500 and $600 per sale.

Friends even worked it into an episode:

Joey is interrupted in the middle of the day by a door-to-door encyclopedia salesman. Joey, who has never shown much interest in books, is yearning for knowledge that brings him on par with his friends’ difficult subjects, so he lets the salesman in. A few basic questions asked by the salesman is all that is needed to show that Joey possesses the IQ of the gum he’s been removing from the furniture, which is the critical point the salesman uses to sell the encyclopedia to Joey, who starts really digging in the V volume.

And how did you learn to spell encyclopedia?

Or did you look it up in your Funk and Wagnalls?

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Encyclopedia Britannica Gives Up Print. I Remember the World Book. — 4 Comments

  1. We had a “Compton’s Encyclopedia, probably 12 books worth. We later got a “Brittanica”, but I used the Comptons…it was just faster. School reports were the Comptons words shifted around so it was not “plagerism.”

    cranky old man
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  2. I still have a set of the World Book Encyclopedias…they were my husband’s when he was growing up. He use to take a volume with him every time he went to the bathroom. He had a photographic memory…and could tell you what page something could be found on and what it said. That always amazed me.

  3. I have set of 1917 but is 10 volumes. Copyright 1917: 1918: 1919 Hanson-Bellows Pub Co. what’s up on this situation?