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Encyclopaedia Britannica sees sales soar after killing print edition

Updated: May 7, 2012 8:15AM

It turns out that all Encyclopaedia Britannica had to do to sell more of its hardcover volumes was to announce it’s killing the print edition.

Three weeks ago, the iconic encyclopedia’s Chicago publisher announced it plans to discontinue its print editions after 244 years and instead focus on its online encyclopedia. Since then, people have been scrambling to buy the last of the 32-volume 2010 edition.

“We were averaging about 60 sets a week, and the next thing we knew, we were selling 1,050 a week,” Britannica spokesman Peter Duckler said Thursday. “When people thought they were going to be around forever, there was no rush to buy one. And then suddenly, boom, and now there is a scarcity, and it’s a collector’s item.”

All but about 800 of the last 4,000 sets have been sold — for $1,395 each.

The company expects to sell out by the end of the month. Duckler says there are no plans to reconsider the decision to discontinue selling the print edition.

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