Online dictionaries to finish off the printed Oxford English?

Darren Allan
Darren Allan -

The e-book market is a growing one, and with the emergence of the iPad – a recent survey said 41% of tablet owners preferred reading on their Apple gadget to the printed medium – alongside a cheaper Amazon Kindle, that growth is being spurred on.

It also seems that even classic reference works such as the Oxford English Dictionary are now under threat from comprehensive online resources.

Sales of the printed OED have fallen considerably due to people accessing online websites to look up words like “neologism”. Or indeed neologisms themselves, or simply to have a gander at rude words and snigger at the prudish definitions.

The Express reports that the next edition of the OED may only appear online, and not in leather-bound hard-copy format.

Nigel Portwood, the head honcho at the Oxford University Press, told the paper: “The print dictionary market is disappearing, it is falling by tens of per cent a year.”

He added that the latest edition would be printed if there was enough demand demonstrated by the public. However, when asked directly if he thought it would be printed, Portwood told the Sunday Times that he didn’t think so.

The rise of the e-book, and indeed the reference website, now seems inescapable. A couple of months back, Sony declared that the e-book market would eclipse the printed book inside five years.

And Amazon has already reported that e-book sales on the Kindle have overtaken hardback book sales on the site, by almost 50%.

Comments in chronological order (2 comments)

  1. Tim Coates says:

    There is a slight danger of self-fulfilling prophecy in this. The ‘market’ for the OED is essentially a public library market. Very few copies are sold to individuals, as printed copies. For some years, as public library overhead costs have increased and book funds have declined, public librarians have been predicting the decline of reference libraries and reference books, as need to know information becomes available on line. So they have allocated less of their budget to works of reference. It is the impetus of librarians that has caused this fall, not an expressed wish of the public through any genuine market.

    I think they have brought the fall too quickly and have closed reference sections when there is still a need for them.

  2. austen says:

    i have a secondhand bookshop & find that dictionaries are good sellers

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