As is probably well-known to most readers, a few weeks ago Encyclopaedia Britannica decided to place the entire contents of its 32-volume set online for free. The decision was widely reported both online and in the print press, and the site promptly crashed under the huge strain. Though a bit slow and sometimes buggy, Britannica.com is now officially up and running, offering full access to the encyclopedia content as well as articles from over 75 magazines. The front page of Britannica.com is partially designed as a news portal, with recent US and world stories. From the front page, users can also select from fifteen broad categories (e.g., Books, Health, History, Science, Society, etc.) and access news, selected Websites from Britannica's Internet guide, and the relevant encyclopedia entry. Detailed encyclopedia entries and articles (as well as related books and Websites) for specific topics are accessed through the keyword search engine at the top of the page. Users may find that the Britannica server is still having difficulty meeting the high demand and that several search requests or visits are necessary. However, when the site does provide returns, it offers a depth of reliable, if somewhat basic, information that few other sites can match. With time, Britannica.com will no doubt smooth out the rough edges and become a primary reference resource for general users and K-12 students.
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