Oxford Dictionary May Go Out of Print

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Blockbuster (Stock Quote: BBI) isn’t the only casualty of the public’s growing dependence on the Internet. Oxford University Press announced Sunday that the growing demand for its online version of the Oxford English Dictionary may render the printed version obsolete by the time its next edition is ready for release.

"At present we are experiencing increasing demand for the online product," the publisher said in a statement. "However, a print version will certainly be considered if there is sufficient demand at the time of publication."

This seemingly hopeful statement was then followed up by an interview with The Sunday Times in which Oxford’s Chief Executive Nigel Portwood said he didn’t think the next edition would be printed.    

"The print dictionary market is just disappearing,” Portwood said, placing blame on not just the Internet, but the growing popularity of e-readers as well. “It is falling away by tens of percent a year.”

Admittedly, the next full version of the dictionary isn’t exactly in the works just yet. A spokesperson for the publisher told the Telegraph that its third edition was only about 28% complete and more than a decade away from completion.

This will certainly give people plenty of time to get better acquainted with the online version of the OED. According to the Associated Press, the online Oxford English Dictionary already gets 2 million hits a month from subscribers. The currently printed second edition, a 20-volume, 750-pound and decidedly less portable set published in 1989, has sold about 30,000 sets in total.

The second edition, which costs $1,165, defines 615,164 words, using 2.4 million source quotations. There are shorter versions of the dictionary also available, including the Oxford Dictionary of English. While Portwood did not indicate whether or not Oxford would discontinue printing these versions as well, he did say their sales were affected by the Web.

Oxford launched its online dictionary in 2000.  Monthly and annual subscriptions are available for $29.95 and $295, respectively. And, according to the publisher, at least 1,800 new and revised words are added to the online version every three months.  You can also buy a CD-ROM of the second edition OED for $295.

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