The publisher of the complete Oxford English Dictionary says the iconic publication may give up on paper and go completely digital.
The Oxford University Press said recently it may not have enough market demand to publish a hardcover version of the third edition of the multi-volume OED.
The Oxford University Press would instead focus on selling subscriptions to the OED’s online version.
No official publication date is set for the third edition of the OED.
Scholars have been working on the text since 1989, but as of June 2010 only entries from “A” to “Rococoesque” have been completed, representing approximately 0.83 letters of the alphabet every year.
The OED is widely considered to be the preeminent authority on the English language, and has been available in print since 1884.
The second edition of the complete OED was published in 1989 as a 20-volume hardcover set. The OED contains more than 21,000 pages detailing word pronunciation, history, usage, and spellings.
The entire text of the OED’s second edition takes up just 540 megabytes of digital storage space. That means you would need just three-quarters the storage capacity of a typical blank CD to store all of the current OED’s 291, 500 entries.
The Web version of the OED (launched in 2000) receives 2 million hits a month, while the complete OED has sold just 30,000 copies total since its publication in 1989, according to the AP.
Access to the OED online costs $295 per year or $29.95 monthly for an individual.
The Oxford University Press says that despite the fate of the complete OED, the publisher will continue to publish smaller versions of the dictionary such as the condensed and pocket editions.
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