The Encyclopaedia Britannica has unveiled a plan to let readers help keep the reference work up to date.
Under the plan, readers and contributing experts will help expand and maintain entries online.
Experts will also be enrolled in a reward scheme and given help to promote their command of a subject.
However, Britannica said it would not follow Wikipedia in letting a wide range of people make contributions to its encyclopaedia.
"We are not abdicating our responsibility as publishers or burying it under the now-fashionable 'wisdom of the crowds'," wrote Jorge Cauz, president of Encyclopaedia Britannica in a blog entry about the changes.
He added: "We believe that the creation and documentation of knowledge is a collaborative process but not a democratic one."
Britannica plans to do more with the experts that have already made contributions. They will be encouraged to keep articles up to date and be given a chance to promote their own expertise.
Selected readers will also be invited to contribute and many readers will be able to use Britannica materials to create their own works that will be featured on the site.
However, it warned these would sit alongside the encyclopaedia entries and the official material would carry a "Britannica Checked" stamp, to distinguish it from the user-generated content.
Alongside the move towards more openness, will be a re-design of the Britannica site and the creation of the web-based tools that visitors can use to put together their own reference materials.
Britannica has unveiled a beta, or trial, version of what will become the finished Britannica Online website.