Monday, April 21, 2008

Britannica free access?

Encyclopædia Britannica International Chinese Edition, of 20 volumes of which the 19th and 20th volume are index, is published by Encyclopedia of China Publishing House.A print Encyclopaedia Britannica
Image via Wikimedia Commons
The Encyclopaedia Britannica recently announced "free" access to some of their content. The basic scheme is that if you are one of the "people who publish with some regularity on the Internet, be they bloggers, Webmasters, or writers," you can register for the ability to share access. Their reason?

"Britannica covers a wide range of topics with thousands of articles and multimedia features. They’re relevant and useful, and we’d like more people to be able to take advantage of them." (quoted for review purposes)

Many have said the real reason is more obviously commercial... that Wikipedia is eating into their online market share (and the web in general eating into print encylopedia share, c.f. the recent announcement by a German print encyclopedia that they were publishing their last edition) and that this was an attempt to win market and mind share (as well as Google ranking because there would be more inbound links to their content) TechCrunch observed something somewhat similar.

What's on offer are widgets as well as direct links.

I decided to sign up and see for myself. The sign up process was simple enough, fill out a form, give a link to your blog, and wait. Shortly thereafter I received a mail with another link, I filled that out and now I have access to content. Here's an example widget:

(I haven't sussed out how exactly to specify what I want to display so gosh knows what topic you're seeing.... the help page wants me to watch a video... I'd rather just read directions) and here's an example link (to the Britannia article on Wikipedia).

I think it's instructive to compare that article (go read it, I'll wait) with the Wikipedia article on Britannica... (again, go read it, I'll wait)

While it is true that Britannica has been around longer... and therefore there is more to say, I find it odd how much of the Britannica article seems to focus on Wikipedia's flaws. While I do not fool myself that Wikipedia is perfect, and I have criticised the project for its flaws, it's not quite as dire as EB seems to paint matters. Perhaps they have fallen into the trap of not exactly having a neutral point of view about their competition?

I'll no doubt have more to say about this later but it's an intereesting development. What do you think? Why did EB do this? Will it be useful to folk? Will this experiment work for EB?


Walter said...

.... and if you disable javascript everyone can read everything of EB. At least for now.

Anonymous said...

"Three other “pillars of wisdom” are not to use copyrighted material, not to contribute original research, and not to have any other rules."

Really? I wonder what they are talking about, WP:IAR? Hard to say without cites sources...

Lar said...

Walter: Shh! No one is supposed to know (but ya, I read WikiZine :) )

Sleepy: ya, that article has no bias :)

Waldir said...

They'll probably fix the javascript flaw sometime soon. But while this system brings obvious advantages to them, it also backfires as their content (the explicitly linked for most people, all of it for tech-savvy ones) will be available to wikipedians to improve wikipedia...