Publishers of the Oxford English Dictionary have confirmed that the third edition may never appear in print. A team of 80 lexicographers began working on it following the publication of the second edition in 1989. It is 28% finished. In comments to a Sunday newspaper, Nigel Portwood, chief executive of Oxford University Press, which owns the dictionary, said: “The print dictionary market is just disappearing. It is falling away by tens of percent a year.” Asked if he thought the third edition would appear in printed format, he said: “I don’t think so.” However, an OUP spokeswoman said no decision had been made.
“It is likely to be more than a decade before the full edition is published and a decision on format will be taken at that point,” she said.
“Demand for online resources is growing but large numbers of people continue to purchase dictionaries in printed form and we have no plans to stop publishing print dictionaries.”
The Oxford English Dictionary already publishes revised and new entries online every three months, with a new version of its OED Online website due to be launched in December.
The publisher produces approximately 500 dictionaries, thesauruses and language reference titles in more than 40 languages in a variety of formats.
Ten years from now, I don’t doubt there will be folks who still want a hard copy of some book or other – including the OED. They most likely will be made available as vanity publishers now offer single copies from digital files.