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Oxford Dictionary Considers Going Online Only

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the wonder-if-they'll-blame-google dept.

Books 153

Kilrah_il writes "Oxford University Press has confirmed that they are considering offering their next version of the Oxford English Dictionary as an online version only, with no option for a hardcopy. The 20-volume set, whose last edition (2nd) was published in 1989, weighs 145 pounds (65kg) and costs about $1,165. It is considered the 'accepted authority on the meaning and history of words.' In 2000, the dictionary was offered online for $295 a year and has been getting 2 million hits a month from subscribers. The printed version, on the other hand, has sales of only 30,000. Work is now progressing on the 3rd edition, but it's still a decade or more away from completion. Oxford University Press is considering going online-only with the next edition of their flagship product, but not for other products such as their best-selling Advanced Learner's Dictionary. At least for now."

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153 comments

A tidy sum in sales of the printed version... (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 3 years ago | (#33419864)

The printed version, on the other hand, has sales of only 30,000

At $1,165, that's $34,950,000, still a tidy sum.

Re:A tidy sum in sales of the printed version... (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 3 years ago | (#33419970)

Exactly, and its all for the same work. This next edition when it comes out in 2020 or whenever can still pretty much use 99.999% of definitions from 1989, the definitions of words don't change too much in academia, after all the OED isn't going to track the movement of slang that is in use for a year or two then fades out of the vernacular.

Not to mention that once the OED is complete, they can make a lot of money taking smaller portions of it and selling it to students, libraries, etc. that is all the same work.

Re:A tidy sum in sales of the printed version... (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420220)

after all the OED isn't going to track the movement of slang

That is one of the big reasons for owning the OED. They track all known meanings of a word, and the time periods when the meanings appeared in print.

Re:A tidy sum in sales of the printed version... (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420342)

They track some movement of slang, yes, but not the type that has been popping up lately. For example, the OED wouldn't pick up something like "Icing" as in the "Bros Icing Bros" meme/campus activity because its not in use long enough. There is some slang generated that will be picked up by the OED but not a ton. Urban Dictionary will prove to be more useful for things like that

Re:A tidy sum in sales of the printed version... (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420606)

That is one of the big reasons for owning the OED. They track all known meanings of a word, and the time periods when the meanings appeared in print.

Indeed it does. That's what makes OED a perfectly cromulent dictionary.

Re:A tidy sum in sales of the printed version... (1)

clong83 (1468431) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420910)

So maybe I'll get a whoosh here.... But according to the OED, "cromulent" is not a word. Did I miss something?

Re:A tidy sum in sales of the printed version... (2, Interesting)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420316)

To be the 'accepted authority on the meaning and history of words.' it better track that.

Or at least the 2 year meaning of words that are still used. It's 150 lbs. of books, it has a lot of detail.

One needs the slang definition of out of use words more than common use definitions. The point is to look up a word that one doesn't know, find out where it comes from, and when it was used.

That way if someone for example wants to know what the "fresh prince" meant, they can see it meant cool, and not talk backy, or opposite of stale.

Re:A tidy sum in sales of the printed version... (3, Informative)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420598)

Exactly, and its all for the same work. This next edition when it comes out in 2020 or whenever can still pretty much use 99.999% of definitions from 1989, the definitions of words don't change too much in academia, after all the OED isn't going to track the movement of slang that is in use for a year or two then fades out of the vernacular.

As a reality check on this, the first installment that was revised -- which deliberately started with a portion of the dictionary expected to need less revision than some other portions -- has 1,045 main entries, 286 of which were added in the revision (63 of those were included in previous supplements, so "only" 223, or 21.3% were completely new), and ~400,000 words of text (compared to ~200,000 words of text in the corresponding sections of the existing edition.)

So, no, the 3rd Edition is not going to be, from the facts in evidence at this point, just as minor update to the second edition.

Further, as to your comment about whether or not the OED will endeavour to track transitory slang, to quote from the preface to the Second Edition: "The aim of this Dictionary is to present in alphabetical series the words that have formed the English vocabulary from the time of the earliest records down to the present day, with all the relevant facts concerning their form, sense-history, pronunciation, and etymology. It embraces not only the standard language of literature and conversation, whether current at the moment, or obsolete, or archaic, but also the main technical vocabulary, and a large measure of dialectal usage and slang."

Re:A tidy sum in sales of the printed version... (4, Insightful)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420048)

Too bad production costs for a print run that small are huge. They're probably making unit profit on the hard copy somewhat close to what they're charging for the soft copy license. But there are a lot of fixed costs with the OED... editors, researchers, typesetting, etc. That thing's got a lot of pages!

Besides, you buy the hard copy, you keep it on your shelf for 20-25 years or so until the next edition comes out.

Instead, they get you @ $295/yr for 20 years assuming price doesn't change). Yes, you get easy access to updated content... but instead of spending $1165, you're spending around $6000 over that twenty-year period.

So instead of $35 million over 20 years, you're talking $165 million. Now THAT's getting close to a worthwhile sum of cash.

Re:A tidy sum in sales of the printed version... (1)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420400)

I'm going to take the role of a devil's advocate here and see if ther perhaps is a cost savings even with the seemingly higher costs.

Let's assume a large university of 10,000 or more students. Perhaps the students only need to access the OED twice during their four years. That's 20,000 'uses' over 4 years... 5,000 times PER YEAR. Even if you assume uniform access across the 20 volumes, each volume will be physically handled 250 times per year.

Now, it's hard to treat this like a normal library book, but a normal access will probably be rather rough. The student will flip through the volume trying to find the exact word, and then perhaps flip back and forth a few more times (adjacent pages, maybe a quick lookup of another definition) The result is that each access will have a rather higher likelyhood of damage than a normal page turn in a regular library checkout, but each access will be for a much shorter duration (and won't go home with the student).

Given a 2 week checkout time the most a normal book could ever be checked out is only 26 times per year maximum if the next person picks it up the instant it is returned. With 50-60% access for a popular book, it would probably only be checked out 13-16 times in a single year. Granted the use cases are different, but as we see how quickly a library book wears out, something that is being 'accessed' at a rate of nearly 1700% as a library book...

Would it even last ten years? Any librarians here on Slashdot?

Re:A tidy sum in sales of the printed version... (1)

toastar (573882) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420780)

umm... You don't check out a 150lb book, it stays at the library and you go to it.

Re:A tidy sum in sales of the printed version... (2, Informative)

adamdoyle (1665063) | more than 3 years ago | (#33421374)

Actually it's a 20-volume set weighing a COMBINED total of 150 lbs. That's only 7.5 lbs a book. You're right though, you still don't check them out. They are typically in the "reference" section and you MUST keep it in the library (you can't check it out).

Re:A tidy sum in sales of the printed version... (2, Interesting)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420430)

they get you @ $295/yr for 20 years

As you mention, this means around $6000 for a twenty years period, instead of $1165 for a printed version.

The times they are a'changing. Why should anyone want to pay $295/yr for something they used to get in printed form at $58/yr, assuming one bought a new edition of the OED once every twenty years?

Do the OED publishers really think it's worth paying five times the price, besides not getting a set of printed books, just to get the few slang words that appeared since 1989? Haven't they ever heard of Google? That's the way I learn about the new slang!

Re:A tidy sum in sales of the printed version... (3, Insightful)

arth1 (260657) | more than 3 years ago | (#33421176)

I went to the OED site, wondering whether it was possible to still buy the paper version. It is, and it's not $1165 like the submission here claims; it's only $995.
That's only $50 per leather-bound volume, or less than your average O'Reilly animal series paperback.

The problem with DVD versions is that they rely on specific software that won't be available a decade from now. I can't use my Encyclopædia Britannica DVD from a few years ago, because it's incompatible with modern operating systems. Had I bought the paper version instead, it would have had access, and so would my kids. And it would have seen a whole lot more use.

Similar with OED -- this made my mind up that I need to buy the paper version of OED while it's still possible.

Re:A tidy sum in sales of the printed version... (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 3 years ago | (#33421356)

Didn't the Britannica CD use Navigator and HTML? ISTR having a version from the late 90's that did that.

Seems to me that it should work OK with FF.

Re:A tidy sum in sales of the printed version... (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 3 years ago | (#33421410)

Outdated Quicktime all over the place, and HTML "designed" for 75 dpi displays, plus a search that throws javascript errors. The only way to get it to "work" is to run it in a virtual machine with an old OS without networking (so various software can't update).

Re:A tidy sum in sales of the printed version... (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#33421398)

I can't use my Encyclopædia Britannica DVD from a few years ago, because it's incompatible with modern operating systems.

Same here. I paid $100 for the CD version Britannica when it first came out. I don't remember if it was for Windows 95 or 98, but I cannot use it on XP or newer system.

Unless my home gets burned in a fire (unlikely in a brick construction) or I have a severe termite, moth, or other paper eating insect infestation, I see no reason why my 1984 hardcopy version wouldn't be readable for several centuries.

Re:A tidy sum in sales of the printed version... (1)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 3 years ago | (#33421612)

Concurrent lookups, durability, less real estate used, less maintenance.

There are more benefits than getting slang words.

Re:A tidy sum in sales of the printed version... (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420472)

But there are a lot of fixed costs with the OED... editors, researchers, typesetting, etc. That thing's got a lot of pages!

Well if they're doing it for the online edition all the material is there already, it just needs to be made into a book form. I can't honestly imagine many other than libraries and etymologists who'd buy this behemoth, I doubt you lose much online sales, it's more likely to be good advertising at the library so they don't use Wikitionary instead, no matter how unauthoritative it is.

Re:A tidy sum in sales of the printed version... (1)

The_mad_linguist (1019680) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420502)

Of course, getting money up-front is more valuable than money distributed over a period of time. A recurring payment of 295 a year for 20 years is worth roughly 2 or 3k up front. Which is still a price hike, but not nearly as steep

Re:A tidy sum in sales of the printed version... (1)

steelfood (895457) | more than 3 years ago | (#33421024)

The two formats really are for different things. The digital version is easier and faster to use. It's superior in the short run. The print version is hardier, able to remain useful under any situation. It's superior in the long run.

There are a lot of advantages to a digital version that print simply can't give you--that is, if they take advantage of the benefits of digital.

The largest advantage is search. The ability to search not only by the headword, but also within different parts of the entry like the definition is a huge win for the digital version. And the ability to filter using broad categories, e.g. transitive verbs, pronouns, words that were once proper names, australian slang, etc. would also be incredibly handy.

Portability is another, but one that I think will never be fully realized. Having a self-contained DVD or flash drive that can run without installation on any device it's in would be the ideal, but there would be DRM and binary nightmares.

Dynamic content is yet another advantage, but one that's a bit more difficult to do. Dynamic content could be anything from using a user's current browse history and/or search history to recommend words all the way to creating word trees containing words that have the same root or are related in some other way to the current entry.

Unfortunately, I don't think the digital interface (their online and CD-ROM versions are the same last I checked) of 2.0 is particularly easy to use. But it certainly has the potential to be so much more useful than the print version.

That having been said, I'd rather a hard copy myself (it would be nice if the hard copy came with a digital copy too, but I'm sure splitting them up makes far more business sense). I rather like the motion of flipping through pages to get to where I'm going. Occasionally, I'll find something interesting by glancing through unrelated entries looking for the word I want. And if nothing else, I like knowing that in 100 years, my descendants would still be able to use it, even if it will be a little dated by then.

Re:A tidy sum in sales of the printed version... (1)

the_fat_kid (1094399) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420134)

and requires over a hundred thousand online subscribers to equal it.
TFS refers to "over 200 hits a month" how many of those are new people and how many are existing suscribers?
200 people looking at it once a month is not going to do it.
more like 116500 people looking at it once every 4 years.
I'm sure they have a plan and I hope it works out for them.

Re:A tidy sum in sales of the printed version... (0)

pnewhook (788591) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420240)

TFS refers to "over 200 hits a month" how many of those are new people and how many are existing suscribers? 200 people looking at it once a month is not going to do it.

I think you misread it. Thats 2 million hits a month, not 2 hundred.

Re:A tidy sum in sales of the printed version... (1)

mea37 (1201159) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420282)

Are you drunk?

'and requires over a hundred thousand online subscribers to equal it.'

No, it requires over a hundred thousand online subscriber-years to equal it. If the 30,000 users who purchased the print copy each subscribe to the online service for an average of 4 years (much less time than they proably hang on to the books), then Oxford is ahead. (And that's not even counting the fact that they'd not have to pay to manufacture the physical books.)

Then again, I bet most of those print copies went to libraries. A library will likely only buy one print copy, but depending on the license terms a library could want more than one concurrent subscription.

'TFS refers to "over 200 hits a month"'

No, TFS claims 2 million hits per month. That's 2,000,000.

Of course they do... (3, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 3 years ago | (#33419868)

Of course they want to go online only, think about it, a 10 year subscription is over $2,000 for them to pocket compared to only $1,165 for the printed copy that lasts a decade. Plus, they can raise that fee in the future and don't have materials cost (which is significant in a book that large)

Re:Of course they do... (1)

The Archon V2.0 (782634) | more than 3 years ago | (#33419994)

Of course they want to go online only, think about it, a 10 year subscription is over $2,000 for them to pocket compared to only $1,165 for the printed copy that lasts a decade.

Lasts far more, I imagine. Probably 95% of the definitions haven't changed recently, so using last decade's edition is hardly the sin that using, say, a ten-year-old IT book would be.

While an OED would be awesome, even if I shelled out for one I wouldn't pay again in ten years. How many people who need one now will have the money, space, and incentive to get a new one in a few years?

Re:Of course they do... (1)

Peach Rings (1782482) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420382)

And honestly how often are you going to flip through 10 volumes of 5 point font printed on bible paper so thin you can see through it just to look up the definition of a word?

Re:Of course they do... (1)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420808)

It must be a pretty complicated word you're looking up if it's definition is spread throughout 10 volumes and printed on rolling paper in a 5 point font.

Re:Of course they do... (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420004)

They release every 20 years, not 10 years. And the paper copy doesn't magically crumble into dust when the next edition is released.

So its more like $4000 online vs much less than $1000 for printed copy over the same interval.

They don't seem to get many "hits" when divided by the number of entries/articles.

Re:Of course they do... (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420070)

Work is now progressing on the 3rd edition, but it's still a decade or more away from completion

My job is killing too many brain cells (my own, I mean). Thats more like a thirty year release cycle. As you can see, Debian has nothing to be concerned about. So that means more like $6000 of online revenue vs less than $1000 for the printed product.

At $295 per year, and govt subsidized toner, paper, and labor, I think you'd be better off printing the whole thing out, rather than subscribing for decades.

Re:Of course they do... (1)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420226)

They're 20 years into this new edition already but are reportedly only 27% complete. They say they'll release in another decade but unless they're planning on buying some illegal substances for accelerating the staff working on the project, the numbers simply do not add up.

Re:Of course they do... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33421136)

The OED is the perfect example of DEAD MEAT.

Hopelessly fusty, out of date, and living in the past. They survive purely on snobbery. It won't be around in its current form when they "complete" the next edition.

Re:Of course they do... (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420528)

At $295 per year, and govt subsidized toner, paper, and labor, I think you'd be better off printing the whole thing out, rather than subscribing for decades.

Getting it to look and feel even half as good as the OED 2nd Edition might prove difficult.

Re:Of course they do... (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420770)

They don't seem to get many "hits" when divided by the number of entries/articles.

By that standard, Google doesn't get many hits either.

By why would anyone ever use that standard?

That's too bad. (1)

interval1066 (668936) | more than 3 years ago | (#33419886)

I'm going to miss the deluxe boxed editions that are over 12 pounds of dead tree plus a little drawer complete with magnifying glass. I'm not kidding, I once saw one a book shop that had a little compartment that held a magnifier.

Re:That's too bad. (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420072)

I'm going to miss the deluxe boxed editions that are over 12 pounds of dead tree plus a little drawer complete with magnifying glass

You probably won't. Not if the closest you came to using it was "seeing in a bookstore." Now if you tended to give them as graduation gifts, or used one yourself, then, yes, you might miss the set's disappearance.

Re:That's too bad. (2, Insightful)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420464)

Assuming it does disappear. The Oxford Press hasn't made a final decision and won't until much closer to the time of publication. It might well be that they're deliberately stoking the fires so that they can start putting out requests for "advance orders". If they sold just as many copies but got the cash 10-20 years earlier than they otherwise would have, they've 10-20 years worth of interest they can collect for extra profit. That would be a big difference.

Re:That's too bad. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33420074)

Did you not RTFS? It plainly states they're talking about going online-only for their flagship product, the 20-volume 145-pound OED, and specifically said they were not dropping the paper versions of lesser products, like the dinky 12-pound book you described.

Re:That's too bad. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33420098)

the one that came with the magnifying glass was the two-volume photoreduction of the 20-volume product.

Re:That's too bad. (4, Informative)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420640)

I'm going to miss the deluxe boxed editions that are over 12 pounds of dead tree plus a little drawer complete with magnifying glass. I'm not kidding, I once saw one a book shop that had a little compartment that held a magnifier.

The Compact Edition (the two-volume version of the First edition or single-volume version of the Second edition which used even-smaller print) that come with a magnifier is not a deluxe edition. It is an inexpensive (compared to the regular, multivolume normal-print set), portable (again, compared to the regular, multivolume, normal-print set) reproduction of the regular set.

Consumer financial sense??? (1)

Hempy (170448) | more than 3 years ago | (#33419962)

So instead of paying $1,165 for something you can touch and have access to whenever you want (and possibly resell) Oxford thinks consumers would rather pay $8,850 ($295/year * 30 years (rough average time between releases)) and get something that they cannot access whenever they want (servers go down, power outages, etc.) instead? Someone help me out here...I can't see the rational here. Maybe Oxford will make it available for download on iTunes :)

Re:Consumer financial sense??? (2, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420054)

On one hand I can see the advantage of something online, for one thing its a whole lot easier to type in to a definition box a word than search through a dictionary filled with tiny print. But on the other hand I can't see there being much of a market for it. If I want a definition of a word, why wouldn't I just Google it? If I needed more examples I'd go to Wikipedia. Unless I'm an English major there is really no need for the average person to even touch the OED and even for English majors unless your specialty is finding old, out of use words and meanings, even you won't use it. For the 2 times a college student somehow needs to use the OED, its just as easy to buy a print copy that will last a long time than a search-able database that is used a few times during the year.

Other than academia, the OED has no real niche, I'm not going to subscribe to it when I can use Google/Wikipedia/Dictionary.com/etc and get it all for free with the relevant definitions and if I really, really, really need to look something up, why wouldn't I just go to a library with it? Its not like its going to be used/checked out...

Hardcover, physical books would save the university money in the long run, and other than total bibliophiles, no one is going to get the OED when there are free, good references available.

Re:Consumer financial sense??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33420194)

Depends on the licensing details (number of seats that $295 gets you, whether the it's licensed for active or installed seats, etc.). It could definitely make sense for a university department, if it can be shared with a reasonable number of students with a simultaneous access limit, and even if it"s locked down to n+1 installs (where n is the number of faculty/grad students who routinely need it, and 1 is a dedicated public access machine sitting wherever the dictionary would have been for other users), the convenience might still be worth it.

A good fleecing (2, Funny)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420332)

So instead of paying $1,165 for something you can touch and have access to whenever you want (and possibly resell) Oxford thinks consumers would rather pay $8,850 ($295/year * 30 years (rough average time between releases)) and get something that they cannot access whenever they want (servers go down, power outages, etc.) instead? Someone help me out here...I can't see the rational here.

You insensitive clod! It's supposed to give Oxford a better deal, not the consumer!!! Now immediately apologize by signing up for a few decades.

Re:Consumer financial sense??? (2, Insightful)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420454)

So instead of paying $1,165 for something you can touch and have access to whenever you want (and possibly resell) Oxford thinks consumers would rather pay $8,850 ($295/year * 30 years (rough average time between releases)) and get something that they cannot access whenever they want (servers go down, power outages, etc.) instead?

Yes, they do, and they are probably right, since they're online subscriptions already vastly outnumber the full-size, full-content hardcopy sales.

Of course, you forget the benefits that online access has over the takes-a-whole-bookshelf edition: you can access it anywhere you have internet access, rather than anywhere you have the whole bookshelf with you, and you get the updates between hardcopy releases as the drafts are ready, rather than having to wait through the multi-decade cycle of hardcopy releases.

Considering that the whole reason to spend the large amount of money to get either the bookshelf version or the online version of the OED is that a complete lexicon of the English language is important to the user, the online version makes a lot of sense to the people that are in the market for the OED in the first place.

Also, considering that a lot of the online use is institutional, not individual, which has different pricing and often includes permission to download the entire database to local servers rather than accessing it from Oxford's servers (and, also, that most of the bookshelf-versions hardcopy sales are to institutional purchasers) and retiring the bookshelf-sized hardcopy version in favor of online access makes a lot of sense.

Resist the urge! (3, Insightful)

blankinthefill (665181) | more than 3 years ago | (#33419964)

I've been lusting after a full copy of the OED since I was introduced to it in my Freshman year of High School. However, as a poor college student majoring in Math, I just can't justify the costs right now... However, once I'm able to, I know I will be purchasing the full set, and would almost certainly purchase the 3rd edition when it is finally ready. While I know that I'm part of a very small minority, I think my existence (as an average person, not a writer, with an education in the sciences and not language) as a soon to be customer shows that there IS a market for these in print, and that much of this market would be absolutely devastated if the OED did go online only.

Re:Resist the urge! (4, Funny)

kevinmenzel (1403457) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420010)

I fully agree (only I'm a poor history major... so I may have to wait until the 4ed before I can afford a copy...)

Re:Resist the urge! (2, Funny)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420188)

I've been lusting after a full copy of the OED since I was introduced to it in my Freshman year of High School. However, as a poor college student majoring in Math,

So, the physics guys lust after a full set of Feynmans lectures, the CS guys lust after a full set of Knuth, most of the rest of the guys lust after the ladies, but you're trying to tell me the math majors lust after a dictionary?

Re:Resist the urge! (2, Funny)

Viceroy Potatohead (954845) | more than 3 years ago | (#33421510)

but you're trying to tell me the math majors lust after a dictionary?

Maybe, or maybe he's trying to say that the maths majors lust after them. I'll have to check my dictionary.

Re:Resist the urge! (1)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420540)

It depends on how the online data is presented. If you could write a harvesting engine to pull in the entire dictionary, convert it to TeX for typesetting, then get it professionally printed and hard-bound, you'd not only have a paper edition but you'd also have a guaranteed unique paper edition unless someone used identical software. Given enough time, so that the online edition you scraped no longer exists or is no longer readable by any hardware/software of the time, you'd have a collector's item whose value far exceeded the value of the definitions themselves. Consider this an opportunity that you can exploit.

Re:Resist the urge! (1)

bigjarom (950328) | more than 3 years ago | (#33421238)

You know, for only $400 you can get the 'small type' edition.
Check Amazon for "The Compact Edition of The Oxford English Dictionary"

Hits != subscriptions (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33419988)

glad they get 2 million hits, but how many subscriptions is that? is it more or less than 30,000

I'll still want the print version (1)

bfootdav (18971) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420018)

The pride of my personal library is my copy of the 20 volume edition of the OED (2nd). I have it conveniently placed near my writing desk and make constant use of it. I fully appreciate the greater convenience of an online version but there's nothing quite like seeing it all laid out like this. While the market for something this expensive and large might be dwindling I doubt it will ever go away completely. And then at $295/year currently for the online version I just cannot justify spending that much (due to the weird price fluctuations at Amazon, and a lot of patience, that's the exact price I paid for my printed version). I also have the OED Historical Thesaurus which is an amazing work. The article mentions that they're going to combine it with the OED for the online version. That would make the yearly price more reasonable but it still seems more than I'd be willing to do for every year for the rest of my life.

Maybe online only... in 10 years? (1)

Kurt Granroth (9052) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420022)

How is this a news article? Oxford University Press says that when they are ready to publish their next revision in 10 years, they might consider doing it online only if there isn't a demand for the hard-copy version.

Calling it "wild speculation" just doesn't do that term justice.

Re:Maybe online only... in 10 years? (1)

idontgno (624372) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420514)

How is this a news article? Oxford University Press says that when they are ready to publish their next revision in 10 years,

Hey, the /Editors are doing their duty by laying the groundwork for a decade of dupes and highbrow versions of Duke Nukem 3D and Phantom Console jokes.

Re:Maybe online only... in 10 years? (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#33421352)

The send out annual updates (a service included in the purchase price). The next full revision, with all of the updates since the most recent full revision, is due in 10 years.

Which is, IMO, the best possible reason to turf paper editions.

Put it online and you can update it in real-time.

Sigh (1)

ciaohound (118419) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420038)

Well, I guess you could use an online version to play the Dictionary game [wikipedia.org] , but nothing says "family fun for everyone" like passing a giant dead-tree-edition dictionary around the living room.

Re:Sigh (1)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420580)

Or you could have even more fun by sliding down a slide of razorblades into a vat of acid.

Seriously people, Monopoly. Look it up. :)

Only 2 million hits/month? (0)

syousef (465911) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420076)

2 million hits/month isn't much for "the 'accepted authority on the meaning and history of words.'". Considering we're approaching 7 billion people (granted not all English speakers) that means a tiny proportion of that population touch it even once a month.

Still a $1000+ 65kg dictionary is ridiculous so online might be the way to go.

Re:Only 2 million hits/month? (1)

melikamp (631205) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420146)

They are behind a paywall, so this number will probably just get smaller from now on.

Re:Only 2 million hits/month? (0, Troll)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420148)

Ok, who is going to use "The accepted authority on all words"? Not me, not you, perhaps a few English majors at a university, but no one else cares. Everyone else can just Google/Wikipedia/UrbanDictionary any word they don't know the definition to. Except for a few English majors no one cares about the etymology of "Napkin" everyone else just knows its what they use to wipe the sour cream off their chin after biting into a burrito.

The only place that needs the OED is universities, and even then its stretching it depending on the number of English majors into that sort of stuff.

Re:Only 2 million hits/month? (4, Insightful)

Jerry Rivers (881171) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420272)

"Napkin" has other meanings, and it might just be worth saving your American self from embarrassment if you ever actually visit a hugely populated country where alternative meanings are regularly used. I can only imagine the looks might get when asking for a napkin.

It's rarely good to be ignorant.

Re:Only 2 million hits/month? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33420626)

Just looked it up - "3. Chiefly British. a diaper."

Er, no - I'm British, and I've never heard a napkin used for anything else than something to wipe your mouth with at a table. Although if you're posh, you'll probably call it a serviette.

Re:Only 2 million hits/month? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33421548)

>> It's rarely good to be ignorant.

Unless you are fluent in 100s of languages, can draw out an i7 schematic and can recite every Jeff Foxworthy joke, you are ignorant and it is a good thing. No one needs to know everything.

Moron. (You are happily ignorant of who just gave you a good name)

Re:Only 2 million hits/month? (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420732)

Except for a few English majors no one cares about the etymology of "Napkin"

I do. I'm not an English major. I just like knowing where words came from. I like being educated and non-ignorant, if I can help it.

everyone else just knows its what they use to wipe the sour cream off their chin after biting into a burrito.

As another poster pointed out ... in America.

Granted, I usually juse use Google/wikipedia. UrbanDictionary, not so much. However, wikipedia/google only go so far.

My childhood called (2, Interesting)

Y-Crate (540566) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420086)

In my personal, completely subjective opinion, there were few things more satisfying to do at a library than open the biggest damn dictionary you could find to a random page. (This was after I finished playing Ghostbusters in the stacks)

Re:My childhood called (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33421326)

there were few things more satisfying to do at a library than open the biggest damn dictionary you could find to a random page

And look for the rudest word you can find, of course.

Thank god for academia! (2, Informative)

longhairedgnome (610579) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420114)

Thankfully most academic institutions already provide proxy access to OED online for the students/faculty. I'll have to stay in academia just so I can get free access to OED and the precious definitions within...

Re:Thank god for academia! (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#33421526)

You've got at least three years while you're getting your degree to arrange to keep an account on a machine that you can bounce HTTP requests through (i.e. anything running sshd on campus). If you can't manage that, you probably don't deserve a degree...

Not true (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33420124)

This story is untrue according to Oxford University Press.

http://www.oxfordtimes.co.uk/news/8360446.Oxford_Dictionary____not_going_online_only___/

Re:Not true (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420258)

This story is untrue according to Oxford University Press.

Not exactly...

OUP told the Oxford Mail last night that no decision had been taken... ...No decision has yet been made on the format of the third edition...

So while not strictly true *YET*, they have not said it will not happen in the end.

Kindle version? (4, Informative)

Ichijo (607641) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420218)

The CD-ROM version is available for $215 [amazon.com]. They really ought to make it available for e-book readers.

Re:Kindle version? (3, Insightful)

RapmasterT (787426) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420334)

sure, who wouldn't want to spend hundreds of dollars on a DRM restricted copy of something in a format that isn't guaranteed to even be supported in 5 years. I'd MUCH rather have it in a self-contained CD format, or even better some kind of format that didn't need a special program, or reader, or even device to read. If only someone could come up with some way of having text information archived in a format that was completely device independent, and or even usable without electricity...THAT would be revolutionary. I'd sign up for that. If only it existed.

Re:Kindle version? (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#33421372)

If only it existed.

It does, but you're going to have a bitch of a time calling it up on your iPhone from your dorm-room webserver during a test.

Re:Kindle version? (1)

aka1nas (607950) | more than 3 years ago | (#33421006)

How big would a volume be? My ebook reader starts chugging once the document gets to be over a few MB.

Re:Kindle version? (0)

jisatsusha (755173) | more than 3 years ago | (#33421042)

Sony's reader (PRS-600 at least, though possible others) has a built-in dictionary, which is quite nice. Double tap on any word and a dialogue opens at the bottom with a list of definitions.

That Will Make it Hard for Future Archaeologists (1)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420324)

You know, I'm all for going digital and keeping electronic backups of things, but one big problem with selling digital-only of anything is that some form or specialized reader (in this case, a computer) is necessary to access the information contained within the document. Having the entire Oxford dictionary in paper form means that future generations and cultures can simply pick up the text and start reading/translating it based on context. Having the next edition in purely digital form means that some future generation or culture will have to develop some means of reading our digital records to have access to the lexicon that is the Oxford dictionary. Mind you, I am not advocating that decisions for the present be made regarding ease of access in some theoretical future, I am just noting that everything stored in a purely digital format today may not be accessible sometime down the road.

It sort of makes you wonder if some of the more obscure artifacts we have found from ancient cultures needed some form of a reader or another to properly understand. I don't know enough about archaeology to make any claims that is the case, but it is an interesting thought.

Re:That Will Make it Hard for Future Archaeologist (1)

ermintru (797621) | more than 3 years ago | (#33421744)

Definitely - physical copies need to be stored in library's around the world. Paper/Papyrus seems to last well, if cared for but are there better things we can do today (Difficult to prove without a few thousand years to test). If we have an event that retrogrades our knowledge base all the on-line, on CD, hard drive becomes inaccessible. Even language may change, that's why it's even more important that the Oxford dictionary has physical form as it would be a lexicon to translating other works. Yes to on-line, and good for them if they make money as it must cost a lot to produce, but only if there are many archived physical copes also made around the world. If these are few they they need to be in a form that is as secure against time and loss of knowledge as possible. (off top of head, laser cut into stainless steel or even better platinum)

I hope they still print at leasta few paper versi (1)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420338)

... if for no other reason than to have a copy around that can still be read in 1000 years.

Check your public library (3, Interesting)

wordsnyc (956034) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420384)

In Ohio, most public libraries let you access the OED online from home if you have a library card.

some records are best kept offline too (1)

rritterson (588983) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420414)

Consider an extinction-level event, such as an asteroid collision with earth. Presume that we cannot deflect the asteroid because we detect it too late, or some other reason you can imagine.

In that case I would bet that humanity, although scattered to the wind all over the planet, would survive in some form. But, who will maintain the internet? Who will preserve all of the data? And, even with that data, we still have to find all of the necessary components to read it (SATA controller, display board, connectors, etc). And our future fractured selves are going to have a hell of a time finding the meaningful and important data, since hard drives do not look remotely unique.

Books do not have any of those problems. The entire OED is not exactly portable, but once you have re-created infrastructure enough to used wheeled transportation, it should be carry-able.

Putting more and more records online is a good thing because it increases access to that information for everyone. But perhaps some records, such as the definitive history of the words in our language, should be designated cultural artifacts worth saving and preserving in hard copy form, lest the unthinkable happens and we lose several centuries of our historical record. And the longer we continue to put stuff only online, the worst the results will be.

Of course, everyone will think planning for this eventuality is ridiculous until we HAVE to plan for the eventuality. I hope we have enough warning to preserve what we need to.

Re:some records are best kept offline too (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#33421402)

If there are humans in one piece, there will be computers in one piece.

What's going to be unrecoverable is our oil-based economy.

The paper dictionaries that survive the asteroid won't survive being used as kindling.

Sacrébleu! (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420486)

It is considered the 'accepted authority on the meaning and history of words.'

For those of us who don't read English, does it come in a French translation?

Re:Sacrébleu! (1)

Phrogman (80473) | more than 3 years ago | (#33420794)

Yeah they left out the "English Language" before "words" there unfortunately. English speakers have a tendency to think that English is the only "real" language, the rest of them are sort of fake languages people speak to fool us into thinking they are real languages.

It is the most complete dictionary of any language on the planet to the best of my knowledge though, and likely a standard to which the rest of the language dictionaries aspire to one degree or another.

I have the Abridged version of the Oxford English Dictionary (in 2 volumes of extremely tiny print with accompanying magnifying glass), and that is more than enough dictionary for anyone I think. I can't imagine owning the full 20 volume set - although I would love to get it. You get the definitions of the words, with accompanying history, examples of usage (modern day and period, with quotes from written sources etc). Its very complete.

Re:Sacrébleu! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33420906)

For those of us who don't read English

You seem to write it quite well though.

There is something familiar with analog (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33420570)

I find this absurd. There's an air about a bookshelf dedicated to nothing but a dictionary or encyclopedia collection. It looks classy, smart and refined. Online can be easier to search and navigate, but being able to pick up something analog should not be dismissed in this digital world. Another though is even though I am not planning on society crumbling anytime soon, or us being wiped out, but I doubt an "Ipad" will last as long as the dead sea scrolls.

Micropayments (1)

hex0D (1890162) | more than 3 years ago | (#33421140)

This is exactly the type of thing that makes me want a workable micropayments scheme. I'd dig having the full version in either electronic or dead tree form, sure, but I can't justify the cost. I could easily see myself paying US$0.25 or something to look up words as needed, though.

Why wait 10 years for next edition? (1)

aegl (1041528) | more than 3 years ago | (#33421444)

If they do decide to drop the printed version - then there seems to be little point in waiting 10 years until they "complete" the current edition before publishing it. They could simply release any completed sections into the online version at whatever frequency made sense.

Get your copy of OED v4.0 CD-ROM while you can.. (1)

synthesizerpatel (1210598) | more than 3 years ago | (#33421512)

OED CD-ROM based versions have been pretty terrible with DRM and obfuscating their database.. However, v4.0 CD-ROM (at least for mac) contains _no_ DRM, and appears to only be obfuscated in terms of how the backend database is stored.

I've been working on this on and off for a while and am pretty close to being able to fully decode their dictionary to the XML -- the sticky part is that their app is written in haxe and presented as a flash application to the OS, but defies any standard flash reverse engineering. But C reverse engineering has yielded chunks of decoded XML without a lot of effort.

So, buy OED v4.0 while they still offer it.. It won't be 0day like the online version, but I think I can live without the addition of new definitions for words like 'twitter'.

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