Encyclopaedia Britannica launches free Web site

For the first time, Encyclopaedia Britannica is offering its Web site content for free and has spun off its online and digital products into a separate business unit, officials said. Until now, Britannica.com charged a $US5 subscription fee and the Web site contained only encyclopedia content.

The new site features encyclopedia text plus news articles from 80 newspapers and magazines, and links to related Web sites.

A Britannica.com spokesman said the Chicago-based company is following an Internet trend. "Right now, consumers' expectations are that it's going to be free. That's what the market is demanding, but that may change in five years. There'll be a vetting out of quality," he said. He added that Britannica.com may have certain "pay-per-view kind of events" on the Web site "down the road".

Britannica.com plans to make money through advertising, sponsorships with newspapers and magazines and by selling books and products related to the customer's search.

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