Sunday, August 29, 2010

Another Sign of the Times

It is likely that the next edition of the venerable Oxford English Dictionary (OED), will not be published in print. No date is scheduled for the release of the third edition, which is only about one quarter finished, but it will probably take a decade or more. The future of the OED is discussed in this article, and is also the subject of an article in The Sunday Times, which is a fee-based site and available only to subscribers. I was interested to learn that the OED "now gets 2 million hits a month from subscribers." It is a bargain compared to many other online reference works--only $295 per year.

Reference works seem uniquely well suited to online publication. Few people read them all the way through, and even more important is the ability to update them quickly and easily. Waiting a decade or more for a new edition of any dictionary, even the OED, just seems unacceptable today. Currently, the online second edition of the OED is updated every three months, but there is no reason updates could not be made more regularly than that. Nigel Portwood, chief executive of Oxford University Press, feels that the market for print dictionaries is "just disappearing. It is falling away by tens of percent a year."


Betsy McKenzie said...

I really prefer to use the online OED. It's much more legible and easy to use. The books are just so difficult to move around in and the print tends to be so small, the paper so thin unless you have a really expensive edition. I have to say I like it online. I agree that reference materials work really well online.

Marie S. Newman said...

I agree with all of your comments, Betsy. I'm also not a big fan of the microprint edition with the magnifying glass.