Oxford English Dictionary May Go Online Only

In What's the Buzz by Hannah Johnson

By Hannah Johnson

The Associated Press reports that Oxford University Press (OUP) might published the third edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED3) online only, skipping the 20-volume print edition. The publisher released a statement saying, “At present we are experiencing increasing demand for the online product… However, a print version will certainly be considered if there is sufficient demand at the time of publication.”

Long considered “the definitive record of the English language,” the OED is a staple of every school and university library, and probably many publishers’ offices as well.

However, the OED3 is not quite ready for publication yet. The 80 lexicographers who have been working on this third edition for 21 years have finished a quarter of the dictionary. The Sunday Times spoke to a representative from the publisher, who said that completion is “likely to be more than a decade” away.

By the time the OED3 is ready to go to press, the “sufficient demand” for a print version might not be there. Nigel Portwood, the chief executive of OUP told The Sunday Times that the OED has never been profitable for the publisher. “These are the sort of long-term research projects which will never cover their costs, but are something that we choose to do,” he said.

As the classrooms in high schools and colleges become more connected and geared towards online learning, access to the OED via the Internet could prove more useful for students than 20 heavy volumes that are only available in the school library.

About the Author

Hannah Johnson


Hannah Johnson is the publisher of international book industry magazine Publishing Perspectives, which provides daily information and news about book markets around the world. In addition to building partnerships with international cultural and trade organizations, she works with the Frankfurt Book Fair to organize and support a number of its overseas initiatives. Hannah has also worked as the managing editor for an online media company, The Hooch Life, focused on craft distillers and cocktail experts. Prior to that, she worked as a project manager for the Frankfurt Book Fair’s New York office, managing various business and marketing activities.