Web surfers inundated Encyclopedia Britannica's website this week after it announced it had axed subscription fees for online visitors and would offer the service for free.
Britannica.com received millions of hits following its announcement on Tuesday, which tied up the site and left many users unable to access it. Although traffic slowed overnight, the site was clogged up again by Wednesday.
Jorge Cauz, Britannica.com's senior vice president for sales and marketing, said: "We're a victim of our own success. All our infrastructure was designed to handle the initial launch, but this was beyond our own forecasts."
He added that extra staff and computer hardware were being deployed and the problem was expected to be fixed by the end of play on Wednesday.
A second spokesman continued: "What we are doing is so much more than an encyclopedia. This is the kind of site the Internet has promised.
"It's a place where you can find information from a trusted source on a variety of subjects on one site. It's a place where people can go for specific information or to browse and enjoy intellectual stimulation."
He added that the company did not expect the online release of the Encyclopedia to affect sales of other versions, including the 40-volume printed work and its CD-Rom and DVD equivalents.
"We don't expect it to affect sales at all because those are aimed at different markets. People who now buy the printed encyclopedia want it in book form for whatever reason. People who buy the CD tend to want to have the information right there," he claimed.
The company hopes to generate revenue by selling advertising space on its website, by sponsorship deals and by offering ecommerce facilities.
While Britannica.com currently only sells books, the company plans to sell products related to the site's subject matter. For example, if a user is reading about telescopes, he will be offered the chance to buy one.
An initial Britannica.com site was launched in the US in 1994, but the company has said it intends to launch sites in different countries and develop localised content to reflect different cultures. A UK site will be launched in January.
Although the print version of the Encyclopedia Britannica has been translated into 12 languages, there are currently no plans to translate the Internet version.
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