Oxford may go online only
LONDON – It’s been in print for over a century, but in future the Oxford English Dictionary – the authoritative guide to the English language – may only be available online.
Oxford University Press, the publisher, said yesterday that burgeoning demand for the dictionary’s online version has far outpaced demand for the printed versions.
By the time the lexicographers behind the dictionary finish revising and updating the latest edition – a gargantuan task that will take many more years – publishers are doubtful there will still be a market for the printed form.
The online Oxford English Dictionary now gets two million hits a month from subscribers. The current printed edition – a hefty 20-volume, £750 (US$1 165) set published in 1989 – has sold about 30 000 sets in total.
“At present we are experiencing increasing demand for the online product,” a statement from the publisher said. “However, a print version will certainly be considered if there is sufficient demand at the time of publication.”
Nigel Portwood, chief executive of Oxford University Press, told The Sunday Times in an interview he didn’t think the newest edition would be printed. “The print dictionary market is just disappearing. It is falling away by tens of per cent a year,” he said.
His comment related primarily to the full-length dictionary, but Portwood said the convenience of the electronic format also was affecting demand for its shorter dictionaries.
It’s too early to predict whether digital dictionaries will completely wipe out the printed format, and Portwood stressed that Oxford University Press had no plans to stop publishing print dictionaries. Still, more and more people are taking advantage of the speed and ease of using the online version, which charges a subscription fee of US$295 a year in America.
Talking to shoppers in London’s Camden Town outdoor market on Sunday, everyone knew about the Oxford English Dictionary, but few had ever used the 20-volume edition. (AP)