Britannica.com to launch fee-based subscription service

Within the next few days, Encyclopaedia Britannica will begin to charge US$5 a month, or $50 per year, for access to its online content, according to the company.

The company said in March that it would revert to a fee-based subscription service as part of a restructuring that also included a layoff of 31 percent of Britannica.com Inc.'s workforce and heavy marketing of other pay services, such as BritannicaSchool.com.

"The Encyclopaedia Britannica is an unparalleled reference work, and it's revised constantly by some of the best editors in the world," said Ilan Yeshua, CEO of Britannica.com, in a statement.

Before the launch of Britannica.com, the Chicago-based Encyclopaedia Britannica was available on the Web through Britannica Online. At that time, it cost individuals $5 per month, or $50 per year, and institutions such as colleges and universities paid on average 50 cents per seat. The more seats an institution purchased, the lower the per-seat cost.

In October 1999, Britannica.com was launched and access to the online encyclopedia was free. However, Britannica.com, like other content sites, didn't make enough money from Internet advertising, so the company decided to move back to a fee-for-service model.

In a statement, the company said Britannica.com will form the basis of the new paid premium service. Later this year, the company said other databases, such as video clips and an encyclopedia for students in grades five through nine, will be added to the premium service.

The new version of the site will provide additional ways for users to navigate the information in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, such as topical browsing and a map browser. The subscription service will be free of banner and pop-up advertising, the company said.

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