Try 1 month for $5

CHICAGO (AP) – Get out your wallet if you want online access to the full Encyclopedia Britannica. will soon start charging $5 a month, or $50 a year, for access to the full encyclopedia, which has been available for free online since the site was launched in October 1999.

The change to a subscription service, announced Wednesday, comes two months after Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc. and announced plans to consolidate their operations. Like other dot-coms, has struggled in the Internet market and has laid off more than 150 staffers, more than half of its U.S. work force, since last year.

There is a shift from free to fee on the Internet, said Mohan Sawhney, a professor of electronic commerce and technology at the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University.

“The grand opening sale of the Internet is over,” Sawhney said.

But the great unknown is still whether people will pay, and whether Britannica’s content is unique enough that it can’t be found somewhere else.

“I think Britannica does have a strong brand so I’m not writing them off,” he said. said it will begin charging in the next few days. However, it will continue to offer some free resources. For example, the opening paragraphs of all encyclopedia articles will be free.

The online encyclopedia will be the anchor of’s new premium subscription service, which the company plans to expand by adding other services this year.

“The economics of the all-free model has changed,” Britannica spokesman Tom Panelas said. Panelas added that online advertising does not fetch as much revenue as it used to.

The subscription service will be free of banner and pop-up ads.

During the school year, about 7 million people a month use the site, Panelas said. The company expects a fraction of those to convert to paid subscriptions, but would not provide a specific figure.


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