Oxford English Dictionary ‘will not be printed again’
Sales of the third edition of the vast tome have fallen due to the increasing popularity of online alternatives, according to its publisher.A team of 80 lexicographers has been working on the third edition of the OED – known as OED3 – for the past 21 years.
The dictionary’s owner, Oxford University Press (OUP), said the impact of the internet means OED3 will probably appear only in electronic form.
The most recent OED has existed online for more than a decade, where it receives two million hits a month from subscribers who pay an annual fee of £240.
“The print dictionary market is just disappearing, it is falling away by tens of per cent a year,” Nigel Portwood, the chief executive of OUP, told the Sunday Times. Asked if he thought the third edition would be printed, he said: “I don’t think so.”
“The printed book is about to vanish at extraordinary speed. I have two complete OEDs, but never consult them – I use the online OED five or six times daily. The same with many of my reference books – and soon with most.A spokesman for the OUP said a print version of OED3 could not be ruled out “if there is sufficient demand at the time” but that its completion was “likely to be more than a decade” away.
The next full edition is still estimated to be more than a decade away from completion; only 28 per cent has been finished to date.
OUP said it would continue to print the more familiar Oxford Dictionary of English, the single-volume version sold in bookshops and which contains more contemporary entries such as vuvuzela, the plastic trumpet encountered in the 2010 football World Cup.
Mr Portwood said printed dictionaries had a shelf life of about another 30 years, with the pace of change increased by the popularity of e-books and devices such as the Apple iPad and Amazon’s Kindle.
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