World Book Encyclopedia

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World Book Encyclopedia
World Book Encyclopedia logo.png
Country  United States
Language English
Series 22-volumes
Subject General
Genre Reference encyclopedia
Publisher Scott Fetzer Company, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway
Publication date
1917; 101 years ago (1917)
Media type Publication
LC Class AE5 .W55

The World Book Encyclopedia is an encyclopedia published in the United States. The company's "mission is to enhance learning and reading for children around the world by developing trustworthy, engaging content to create products that will engage children of all ages at home, on the go, in the classroom or in libraries worldwide. We aspire to establish World Book as a renowned, global, adaptive, and mission-driven enterprise that helps kids learn and read throughout their entire childhood journey." [1] The encyclopedia was designed to cover major areas of knowledge uniformly, but it shows particular strength in scientific, technical, and medical subjects.[2] It is based in Chicago, Illinois. The first edition (1917) contained eight volumes. New editions have since appeared every year except 1920, 1924, and 1932, with major revisions in 1929 (13 volumes), 1947 (19 volumes), 1960 (20 volumes), 1971 (22 volumes), and 1988 (new typeface and page design, and some 10,000 new editorial features).[3] Today, the company claims that World Book is the most up-to-date commercial encyclopedia, with over 2,500 pages updated in 2016 and more than 14,000 pages in total.

World Book also publishes children's non-fiction and picture books under the Bright Connections Media imprint, and educational development and supplemental instructional resources through Incentive Publications by World Book.

The 1917 edition was published by the Hanson-Roach-Fowler Company, but within two years, World Book became the property of W.F. Quarrie & Company. In 1945, the World Book became the property of Field Enterprises. In 1978, World Book was purchased by Scott Fetzer Company, which in turn has been a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway since 1985.


World Book Encyclopedia (1990)

The first edition of The World Book Encyclopedia was published (as simply The World Book) in 1917. "As a rule," writes founding editor Michael Vincent O'Shea (professor of education at the University of Wisconsin) in the preface of that first edition, "encyclopedias are apt to be quite formal and technical. A faithful effort has been made in the World Book to avoid this common defect." Since the encyclopedia first appeared in print, it has grown from 8 volumes to 22 volumes, from a set with limited color plates to one with color throughout. Over the years, the World Book has been characterized by its design. Unlike most other encyclopedias, it is traditionally published in variously sized volumes, depending on the letter of the alphabet. Although most volumes cover exactly one letter completely, the letters with exceptionally numerous entries ("C" and "S") are divided between two volumes, while adjacent letters with relatively few entries ("J"–"K", "N"–"O", "Q"–"R", "U"–"V", and "W"–"Z") share a volume. World Book editors lay out major articles distinctly, often starting them on a page of their own, perhaps with a two-column heading. Materials are reviewed and authored by experts. It recognizes that one of the primary uses of general-purpose encyclopedias is students' work on school reports. For instance, every article for a U.S. state has a box giving information about such things as the official state bird and tree and each President of the United States gets a very distinctive look with an oversized portrait, a timeline and significant historical events that occurred during that president's administration.

Alternative editions[edit]

Braille 1959 World Book Encyclopedia

In 1962 World Book produced a Braille edition, which filled 145 volumes and nearly 40,000 pages. It was the first encyclopedia in Braille. The project was mainly an effort in goodwill, for the company did not see its way clear to selling enough copies of the set to cover production costs. Eventually, all sets of the Braille edition were donated to several institutions for the blind. In 1964 the company also published a large-print edition.[4]

An international version, aimed at English-speakers outside of North America, was also produced in 1992.

Since 1998, in addition to the print and CD-ROM editions of the 22-volume, 13,800-page encyclopedia, World Book also publishes an online version called World Book Online. The online version includes 23 subscription databases with all of the articles contained in the print set, as well as several thousand additional articles and the contents of every yearbook World Book has published since 1922. Articles are also available in Spanish. The online version contains links to current web sites and magazine articles, a news section, and video and audio samples.

Digital multimedia encyclopedia[edit]

World Book Encyclopedia is also published in electronic form for Microsoft Windows and Apple's Mac OS X. Electronic editions contain the entire text of the 22-volume World Book Encyclopedia, plus illustrations, video clips, 3D panoramic views, and sounds. The articles bring together a complete story, multimedia content, an article outline, research aids and links to related information. Online updates to articles and a "Month in Brief" time browser are available by subscription.

Apple included a bundled copy of the Mac OS X Edition of World Book Encyclopedia when they made OS X the default operating system for all new computers.[5] This edition had some Mac-only features including a more intuitive user interface, Sticky Notes sharing via Bonjour technology, Trivia Challenge game, a collection of editor-approved webcams, Notepad, speech capabilities and "This Day in History", "Media Showcase" and "Librarian" widgets.

Since November 2007, both the Windows and Mac electronic editions of World Book Encyclopedia have been developed and published by Software MacKiev.

Associated publishing projects[edit]

Other World Book products include:

  • World Book Year Book (covers previous year's events/history and features updated articles from the encyclopedia)
  • World Book Online
  • World Book eBooks
  • Early World of Learning
  • Childcraft
  • World Book's Animals of the World
  • Building Blocks of Science
  • Building Blocks of Mathematics
  • Enigmas of History
  • Endangered Animals
  • Discovery Science
  • Dinosaurs!
  • A Look At ...
  • Anti-Bullying Basics
  • Out of This World[6] (profiles of NASA Inventors and their concepts.)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "About Us - World Book". Retrieved 17 December 2017. 
  2. ^ "Encyclopedias in English and Other Languages". Library Research Guides. Indiana University. Archived from the original on June 19, 2012. 
  3. ^ Kobasa, Paul A. (2008). "Encyclopedia". World Book Online Reference Center. Retrieved 2008-01-13. 
  4. ^ Stockwell, Foster (2001). A History of Information Storage and Retrieval. p. 137. 
  5. ^ "MACWORLD EXPO 2002 Press Announcement". Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  6. ^ Out Of This World, book series for ages 10-14+, World Book, Chicago, 2017. Retrieved Dec. 7, 2017.

External links[edit]