The era of the door-to-door encyclopedia salesman is officially over.

After more than two centuries of existence, Encyclopaedia Britannica, the oldest continuously-published encyclopedia in the English language, has announced it’s going out of print.

The 244-year-old company once churned out gold-lettered reference books so many of us once thumbed through while doing our homework. It also was the subject of many amusing tongue-in-cheek commercials. Now, however, the company will shift its focus to online volumes and educational curriculum for schools.

“It’s a rite of passage in this new era,” said Jorge Cauz, the president of the Chicago-based Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc. “Some people will feel sad about it and nostalgic about it. But we have a better tool now. The Web site is continuously updated, it’s much more expansive and it has multimedia.”

He said sites like Wikipedia have largely replaced “the authority of experts with the wisdom of the crowds,” and while Britannica originally thought its prestigious sources, carefully-edited entries and the trust associated with the brand would set it apart, that apparently wasn’t the case with fact-seekers.

Access to Britannica’s mobile applications and the company’s online database of articles, videos and other documents will set you back $70 a year. But if you’re feeling nostalgic and want to buy the last 32-volume print edition, bring your checkbook and a few strong friends — the set weighs 129 pounds and costs about $1,400.

[The New York Times]