Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. (A)
In the mid- to late 18th century, Scotland enjoyed its own “information age,” the Scottish Enlightenment. During this time, two enterprising men decided to capture and market that knowledge.
In 1768 Colin Macfarquhar and Andrew Bell publish what they called a “Dictionary of Arts and Sciences” - Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc (EBI). A second edition soon followed, then a third and a fourth, each bigger and more comprehensive than the last.
By 1815, when the fifth edition was published, the set had ballooned to 20 volumes.
In 1790, A pirated version, published in the U.S, tapped a growing new market. Even George Washington even bought a set.
Throughout the 19th century and into the 20th, EBI continued to enhance its reputation as the premier source of knowledge. Thecompany recruited notable scientists and scholars, including Thomas Malthus, Sigmund Freud, and Marie Curie, to contribute. It expounded upon such cutting-edge topics as taboos, anarchism, ether, and Darwin’s theory of evolution. As demand mushroomed, it hired a permanent editorial staff and began printing—and updating—annually.
In 1943, William Benton extended the company’s global reach and expanded its product line, acquiring in the process Compton’s Encyclopedia and dictionary publisher G. & C. Merriam.
In 1981, EBI entered the digital age, it offered an electronic version to business users of Lexis-Nexis, an information retrieval service of Mead Data Central.
In 1989, the company moved further into the electronic age when it published Compton’s Encyclopedia on CD and the target audience was schools and libraries. Still in the same year, the company boasted 2,300 sales.
By 1990, the company’s sales revenues hit a new high—$650 million, and the 32-volume set remained the standard to which other encyclopedias around the world aspired.
During the early 1990’s, the software giant Microsoft decided to enter the encyclopedia market. Microsoft released it on CD-ROM...