May 7, 2008 11:40 AM | 5
In his book The Vanishing Newspaper, Philip Meyer predicts that the final copy of the final newspaper will appear on someone’s doorstep one day in 2043. But there’s something (or rather, someone) else who’s already disappeared from America’s doorsteps: the encyclopedia salesman.
In 2007, Scott “Willie” Lohman, Encyclopedia Britannica’s last door-to-door salesman made his last sale, ending the company’s reliance on kitchen table pitchmen. But it’s more than just the salesmen that have disappeared—the volumes themselves are going the way of the dinosaurs.
The New York Times recently reported that Germany’s foremost multivolume encyclopedia, Brockhaus, is making all of its 300,000 articles available online—for free. And the publishing house says it can’t promise that it will ever produce another print edition, something it has done regularly since 1808.
Other European and American publishers are following suit and moving their encyclopedias entirely into the digital realm. For years we’ve been reading about the death throes of ink and paper, but now the victims are household names. Has the War on Print finally gone hot? Stay tuned…to your computer screen.