Few visualizations of the transition from old media to new media (to which I’ve long been contributing, as both a digital media veteran and a reader) are as stark as the sales trend of the Encyclopaedia Brittanica, which ceased print publishing this week (edited for clarity):
Sales of the Britannica peaked in 1990, when 120,000 sets were sold in the United States. … Only 8,000 sets of the 2010 edition have been sold, and the remaining 4,000 have been stored in a warehouse until they are bought. … Now print encyclopedias account for less than 1 percent of the Britannica’s revenue.
Brittanica’s been in print for 244 years. (It has the New York Times and The Economist beat by nearly a century.) But in a relatively brief 22 year span, the print encyclopedia’s distribution dropped by 93% and the share of the publisher’s revenue from those books dropped by 99%.
I continue to read many publications in print form, atop the multitude of web pages I consume. But I suspect it won’t be long before my only practical reading option is a tablet.