Britannica Interactive Toys

December 14th, 2010 by Tom Panelas

If you’re looking for toys this holiday season that are both fun and educational, check out what Britannica has to offer. Our very own John Russell explains below. Go to the Britannica Store for more information or to buy.

Britannica is a “Superbrand”

July 15th, 2009 by Tom Panelas

Calling us “this year’s notable high achiever” in their annual survey of brand equity, researchers in the United Kingdom today named Encyclopaedia Britannica a “superbrand” by virtue of its reputation among consumers.

superbrandsuk_logo.JPGThe survey, carried out by the Centre for Brand Analysis on behalf of Superbrands UK, looked at 1,400 brands and canvassed more than 2,000 consumers to arrive at a list of the most respected businesses, based on perceptions of their products’ quality, reliability, and distinction.

The results: Britannica finished 10th among the 500 brands ranked. Here’s the Top 10 list:

1. Microsoft
2. Rolex
3. Google
4. British Airways
5. BBC
6. Mercedes-Benz
7. Coca-Cola
8. Lego
9. Apple
10. Encyclopaedia Britannica

You can read more from the BBC and The Bookseller. Details at Superbrands UK.

EB School Site Among “10 Best Digital Resources”

June 1st, 2009 by Tom Panelas

Calling it one of the “must-have” products for the fall, School Library Journal has just named Britannica Online School Edition one of the “10 Best Digital Resources” for 2009. Take it away, SLJ:

“Britannica Online School Edition has tipped the scales of online encyclopedias by including four different products within their Online School Edition. . . . With the addition of this latest product, Britannica has expanded their encyclopedic line to reach every user at every level, while still providing educators with Teacher Resources, additional learning materials, digital images, video clips, maps, and much more. It only takes a few minutes of online research (or maybe some interactive fun) within any of the Britannica modules to discover why this online encyclopedia has advanced to the head of the class.”

BOLSE is Encyclopaedia Britannica’s comprehensive, curriculum-aligned online service for pre-K through grade 12. Go here to read the entire review by Professor Shonda Brisco of Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, and to see the other products on the list. Schools and school districts interested in School Edition can call 800-621-3900 or go here for more information.

Note: If you publish regularly on the Web, as a blogger, writer, webmaster, or what have you, you’re probably eligible for a free subscription to Britannica Online, which will make it easy for you to link to Britannica articles you want to share with your readers. We call it the Britannica’s WebShare program. Details here. Apply here.

Britannica and The Math Forum Team Up

May 6th, 2009 by Tom Panelas

For years middle schools throughout the United States have used Mathematics in Context (MiC) as their primary curriculum.  A program for grades 6-8 published by Encyclopaedia Britannica, it was developed jointly at the University of Wisconsin and the University of Utrecht, and funded in part, let us not neglect to mention, by the National Science Foundation.

Today we’re moving ahead with some enhancements to the MiC program, in a project where we’ll team up with The Math Forum @ Drexel University to provide teacher training and professional development for teachers who use the MiC curriculum. Details in our news release.

And if this interests you, perhaps you’d also like to take a look at our math curriculum for grades 1-6, Britannica SmartMath. News release on that here.

Oh, yes, and MiC has helped students in Philadelphia boost their math scores.

Note: If you publish regularly on the Web, as a blogger, writer, webmaster, or what have you, you’re probably eligible for a free subscription to Britannica Online, which will make it easy for you to link to Britannica articles you want to share with your readers. We call it the Britannica’s WebShare program. Details here. Apply here.

Classic Adler-Van Doren Conversations Discovered

April 3rd, 2009 by Tom Panelas

Thanks to the diligent sleuthing of an Sedona, Arizona, archivist, a series of classic conversations about the art of reading, between the late philosopher Mortimer J. Adler and his acolyte Charles Van Doren, are once again available on video from Encyclopaedia Britannica and the Center for the Study of The Great Ideas.

The discussions between the two public intellectuals, produced by Britannica in the 1970s, were lost for many years until they were rediscovered recently by Ken Dzugan, archivist for the Center. They’re now available on a single DVD and may be ordered online at

Titled “How to Read a Book,” the video was originally produced in conjunction with the third edition of Adler’s classic book of that title, published in 1972 and coauthored by Van Doren. The book’s first edition was a runaway best seller when it was published in 1940.

After going out of print many years ago, the original videotaped product of the Adler-Van Doren conversations disappeared from Britannica’s records. It would have languished in eternal obscurity had it not been for Dzugan’s pluck. After getting a tip from Center member Steve Rossiter, Dzugan searched through an international database of library holdings, located a library that had the original videotapes, borrowed them and approached Britannica, seeking permission to reproduce them. . . .

Read the rest of the story in the press release.

“Enter Britannica”

March 31st, 2009 by Tom Panelas

Many thanks to Hiawatha Bray of the Boston Globe for this story today about Britannica’s new editorial-feedback feature.

The Mongoose and the Cobra

March 12th, 2009 by Tom Panelas

This is the most popular Britannica video available online. Does this tell us anything about human nature?

Is Britannica Going Wiki?

March 9th, 2009 by Britannica

To the Internet’s prolific meme machine, the coincidence must have been irresistible. In the same week earlier this winter that Britannica talked publicly about “opening” our editorial process, Wikipedia mulled changes to its own methods deemed less open by some. Britannica was inviting readers to contribute; Wikipedia might “flag,” or hold, some user revisions for administrative review before they were published. From this did the trend-spotters of the media and blogosphere detect a harmonic convergence between the two antipodes of the encyclopedia world, and they were happy to proclaim, almost as one: Britannica, Wikipedia, each becoming more like the other.

How perfectly symmetrical.

The truth, as usual, was far more complex. Let’s take a look at it.

Encyclopaedia Britannica recently introduced some new features to Britannica Online that make it easy for our readers to suggest edits, revisions, updates, amplifications, and corrections to our articles and to submit their handiwork to our editors for consideration.

Several Wikipedians have contributed, and we’d welcome others And yes, anyone who has Internet access can do this. Not only will our editors review your suggestions promptly, but if they’re accepted for publication you’ll get credit in the article history for that entry in your own name.

Nothing Wiki This Way Comes
Ha! User-generated content, you say. Well, yes. But a wiki? No. Because the operative word in the paragraph above is suggest. Britannica users don’t have the ability or authority to publish the edits they propose; only Britannica editors can do that, and that’s the way it will stay.

And even though we plan to introduce new features and sections on our site where our users and expert contributors will be able to publish their own work and collaborate with one another without editorial oversight by us, when it comes to the Encyclopaedia Britannica itself, all of the suggested revisions we get, no matter whom they come from, will be reviewed, checked, and approved by our editors before they’re published. All of them.

To make this even clearer, let’s look at some of the key features of Britannica’s editorial method that distinguish it from Wikipedia and other collaborative enterprises on the Internet.

We’re always open. We don’t close or freeze any articles or put them off limits to revision. All articles at Britannica are open, always. Users may submit suggestions for revisions to any article, and the editors will review the suggestions based on the same criteria we use for all revisions. If they find that the suggestions will improve the article, those revisions will be published and the person who submitted them will be recognized by name in the Topic History for that article.

Since we introduced our new online feedback system recently, many of our users have done this and seen their names appear with the articles to which they contributed. While we haven’t published every suggestion we’ve gotten, we have published many, including several from people who’ve told us they also edit Wikipedia. (We’re delighted to have them, incidentally, and would welcome other interested Wikipedians.) We’ve been generally impressed with the level of quality of the suggestions we’ve received.

Impressed, but not entirely surprised, because corresponding with our readers about the contents of Britannica is not a new practice for us. Even before the advent of e-mail we got thousands of hard-copy letters each year from readers who had suggestions for us or disputes about something we’d published. We read them, reviewed them, answered them, and made many changes to the encyclopedia as a result. Our new online system is simply a more efficient mechanism for interacting with our readers in a way we have done for decades. It makes it smoother, faster, and much easier to submit specific text changes.

Professional editors, professional editing. Our editors are all skilled, well educated, and trained in the strong editorial methods we’ve developed over many years. They learn to use good judgment, consult with colleagues as needed, and make decisions consistently, not on the basis of their personal whims. Many of them are subject-area specialists, with doctorates in their areas of editorial responsibility.

Today, as always, new articles and proposed revisions go through a rigorous editorial process before they’re published. As we get more submissions from users we’ll put more resources into reviewing and publishing them promptly, but the process will remain the same. All of our articles—not just some—will get the full treatment before readers see them.

Expert contributors. Our articles are written by people who know the subject they’re writing about and are qualified to do so. Major articles are written by senior scholars and experts who have achieved a high degree of mastery in their fields. We’re proud that more than 100 Nobel Prize winners have written for Britannica.

This may be the foremost buzzword on the Web today, the Holy Grail of publishing and many other Internet enterprises. Ours is a skeptical age in which anyone on the Web laying claim to authority is expected to spell out for visitors how he or she works. Fair enough. Here’s how transparency works for us.

  • We communicate with everyone who submits revisions to us in good faith. Everyone gets an e-mail thanking them and acknowledging their submission. After our editors have reviewed the submission and decided how to act on it, the user is again notified. In between these two steps, the review process can become directly collaborative. Not infrequently, the editor in charge will communicate with the user with questions for more information or clarification. People know that we’re looking at their suggestions and taking them seriously, and we always tell them what we plan to do with them.
  • Each of our online articles includes a “topic history” describing the revisions that have been made to it for the past several years, when those revisions were made, and who was responsible for them.
  • Major articles are signed by leading experts and senior scholars, and their names and affiliations are given.
  • We list our editors by name here.

Collaboration. We have a highly collaborative editorial process. Editors have a wide range of latitude in which to work to make articles as good as possible, and they’re trained to take advantage of the people and resources at their disposal. In addition to extensive interaction with their staff colleagues—copy editors, fact checkers, cartographers, and photo and media editors—article editors also consult with the authors of their articles, expert advisers all over the world, our Board of Editorial Advisors, and readers who’ve taken an interest in an article.

While the editorial systems of Wikipedia and other online collaborative enterprises may have their rationales and advantages, this is what works best for us. It’s different from others in key respects, though it’s consistent with standards of scholarship that have developed in the encyclopedia world as well as in the broader realm of publishing and produced excellent results for many years. We alter our method when necessary, as we’re doing now, to keep the contents of Britannica relevant, reliable, and up to date, but our commitment to producing sound, quality products and to the processes responsible for such products doesn’t change.

Our method is highly transparent, collaborative, and it works. We invite you to take part in it.

[Reposted from the Britannica Blog]

Britannica SmartMath is a Codie Finalist

February 26th, 2009 by Tom Panelas

Codie AwardI hope you won’t begrudge us a bit of crowing over the fact that Britannica SmartMath has just been named a finalist for the 2009 Codie Awards.  The Codie is the most covetted honor in the information publishing business, and, well, we covet it.  We’re only human.

Besides, Britannica SmartMath is new, and it’s nice to see a new product win praise.

SmartMath is an engaging, interactive program consisting of more than 35,000 practice questions that together form an integrated curriculum correlated to educational standards. It combines questions and activities with some very cute avatars to individualize student learning.  More about it here

You can see all the Codie finalists here.

As always, schools interested in Britannica SmartMath or any of our products can go to or call 1-800-621-3900.

Renewing Your WebShare Subscription

February 19th, 2009 by Tom Panelas

The Britannica WebShare program started about ten months ago, in mid-April 2008, and since it’s our practice to notify recipients of complimentary subscriptions two months before their subscriptions are about to expire, those of you who got one-year subscriptions to Britannica Online at the beginning of the program are starting to receive those notifications now.

If you still qualify as a Web publisher as you did last year, you can renew your subscription and get another year free. We do ask that you apply again and certify that you’re still a Web publisher. To do that and apply for your subscription, please go to the registration page.

Important: Please wait until your current subscription expires before applying for a renewal. I realize this may cause some interruption of your service, but we will try to expedite the renewals and send through approvals quickly. Thanks.

Please remember also that you can share any Britannica article with your readers simply by linking to it from your site as you would any other Web page. Readers who click on the link will get the article in its entirety even if they’re not Britannica subscribers. More here.