El fin de la Britannica

A nadie le cayó por sorpresa el anuncio de que la Enciclopedia Britannica no volverá a ser editada.  De pasada, es tentador pensar que Wikipedia la mató, pero este análisis presentá una idea que se ve mucho más plausible:

Britannica went bankrupt in 1996, long before Wikipedia was a crowdsourced gleam in Jimmy Wales’ open-access eye. In 1990, the company had $650 million in revenue. In 1996, it was being sold off in toto for $135 million. What happened in between was Encarta.

Not because Encarta made Microsoft money (it didn’t), or because Britannica didn’t develop comparable products for CD-ROM and the web (they totally did, with the first CD-ROM encyclopedia in 1989 and Britannica Online in 1994). Instead, Encarta was an inexpensive, multimedia, not-at-all comprehensive encyclopedia that helped Microsoft sell Windows PCs to families. And once you had a PC in the living room or den where the encyclopedia used to be, it was all over for Mighty Britannica.

When Wikipedia emerged five years later, Britannica was already a weakened giant. It wasn’t a free and open encyclopedia that defeated its print edition. It was the personal computer itself.

Es interesante pensar que parte del papel que la Britannica jugaba era el de ser un objeto de status.  Tener una daba cierto “caché” y demostraba el interés de los padres por la educación de los hijos.  La PC llegó para convertirse en el nuevo objeto de prestigio.  ¿Cuál es el objeto en esta era post-PC?