A month after it pulled out of print, Encyclopedia Britannica hits iOS

As you know, Encyclopedia Britannica announced in March plans to stop printing its iconic multi-volume book sets.

The decision to kill the dead-tree edition, following 244 years of publishing, has stunned folks who prefer credibility over availability and the old-fashioned types who enjoy that lovely feeling associated with flipping through the real pages.

Fortunately, fans can sigh a collective breath of relief as Encyclopedia Britannica goes digital, releasing their inaugural app for the iOS platform.

It was about the time as Encyclopedia Britannica sold just 8,500 volumes of the 2010 edition.

Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., the publisher of the widely respected general-knowledge English-language encyclopedia, is betting that a modern connected consumer in the need of a credible source of reliable and fact-checked information will prefer the brand new digital edition over the widely available online sources.

The interface will look familiar to anyone who interacted with digital newspapers and magazines on an iOS device. Although the focus is on text, content presentation takes advantage of photographs, diagrams and charts to help convey information.

You can favorite articles, present them with a dynamic view of related topics and more.

Unfortunately, Encyclopedia Britannica falls short on annotation and social sharing features so here’s to the hoping that the team improves the interface and feature set in future updates.

The app is a free download from the App Store, but only some content is provided free of charge. For unlimited access, you’ll have to subscribe in-app for a $1.99 monthly subscription, which is half of the cost of an online subscription.

The 40.5MB universal binary runs natively on both the iPhone and iPad.

A version for Google’s Android operating system is launching later this year.

Here, your release notes:

The complete Encyclopaedia Britannica – the world’s most trusted reference source, enhanced for your iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch.

Search & Browse – Over 80,000 articles – expertly written and thoroughly fact-checked – on everything from A-Rod to Zebras. Our contributors include over 100 Nobel Laureates plus subject gurus like Bill Clinton, Tony Hawk, and Desmond Tutu.

View – Photographs, diagrams, and charts help bring each topic to life.

Make Connections – “LinkMap” lets you explore each article with a dynamic view of related topics.

Personalize – “My Britannica” keeps track of your favorite articles and more.

Print encyclopedias have suffered a major blow after Wikipedia blew up.

For all the talk about the downfall of print publishing and the debate on print vs. Wikipedia accuracy, the fact remains that major print encyclopedias have been found to be as inaccurate as their online counterparts – if not more – simply for the fact that one cannot easily change content once these things get out of the presses.

I use Wikipedia for research on a daily basis, but always strive to take information discovered via online sources with a healthy dose of skepticism.

To me, print encyclopedias have always been about credibility.

Having said that, I expect that Encyclopaedia Britannica’s move to digital publishing will vastly improve upon the accuracy of facts as the editors can easily release a new version of the app with updated content.

At $24 a year, the app-ified Encyclopedia Britannica is a much better deal than its print edition used to be.

When was the last time you flipped through the pages of a dead-tree encyclopedia? Would you consider purchasing a monthly subscription to the Encyclopedia Britannica app?