Saturday, January 07, 2006

VNU history (3)

In the first instalment in this mini series there was talk about the American VNU encyclopedia adventure of the Academic American Encyclopedia (AAE). In the Netherlands VNU had set up a general encyclopedia in the Dutch language. It was supposed to become the Dutch Encyclopedia Brittannica, but nicer. The special artwork of UK company Mitchell Beazley made it nicer indeed; see the illustration of the article on phantasy.

In its inexperience VNU thought that it could export the concept of the encyclopedia to the States. The artwork did not have to be changed and of course some portions of the text should be localised. The encyclopedia was produced with a lot of extra editorial work and launched in 1975. The AAE even won approval of the American Library Association. But the sales were slow.

The management of the AAE was rather progressive. The text had been photo-typeset. In 1980 the company had a laser disc produced with the text and illustrations of the encyclopedia. It was shown on the Frankfurt Book Fair in that year. Earlier that year the text had been brought online with The Source, one of the first online consumer services in the world, which was later on acquired by CompuServe.

By 1982 the AAE was sold to Grolier Co. The company kept up the record performance of the reference work in new media, for in 1985 Grolier launched the AAE on the next new medium: CD-ROM.

Tags: ,

encyclopedia, CD-ROM, The Source, Grolier, VNU

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