Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Oxford English Dictionary will be online-only

The OED (Oxford English Dictionary) has been THE standard for the English Language. The 3rd edition has been in progress for 21 years, and is almost ready to ship in its normal paper form. But its owner has now announced that this will be the last paper edition of the hallowed dictionary which from now on will be produced only in electronic formats.

He said: “Until six months ago I was clinging to the idea that printed books would likely last for ever. Since the arrival of the iPad I am now wholly convinced otherwise.
“The printed book is about to vanish at extraordinary speed. I have two complete OEDs, but never consult them – I use the online OED five or six times daily. The same with many of my reference books – and soon with most.
“Books are about to vanish; reading is about to expand as a pastime; these are inescapable realities.”
This perhaps the most stunning prediction made by someone who doesn't sell iPad, Kindles, Nooks, or other eReaders. What do Mod-Bloggers think? Will paper books always have a place, or are we on the verge of a time where they are regarded as antiques fit only for display?


"Nick" said...

Generally those who use a dictionary are writers, and since they are writing on a computer, using an online or electronic dictionary makes sense. I don't think you can extrapolate from that that books will vanish. Dictionaries maybe, but not books.

And to predict that it is inescapable that reading will expand? Many of these devices make the consuming of all media easier, and given the choice, many will choose to view a video over read a book, and this is being proven by the popularity of Hulu and Netflix.

So basically, I think that he might be right about publishing only an online dictionary, but he is jumping the gun on predicting that books will vanish and reading will expand. I think the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Nomad said...

I think very soon the only practical advantages of paper books will be durability (no power source needed to maintain them) and reusability (i.e. the same book can be used by countless numbers of people). eBooks are already generally cheaper and easier to distribute. And with devices like the OLPC and the new Indian $35 tablet computer, poorer nations may actually have access to more books via the Net than via libraries. Having dozens of books with me at all times on my iPad (and Kindle) means I read more often these days, simply because they're always with me.

That being said, I realize there are aesthetic reasons for preferring books. And used books are still cheaper to buy in the short term - 35 cents for a novel at Goodwill, for example. But I am not sure those reasons will hold up long-term as eBooks become cheaper and cheaper (especially for older editions) and more children grow up without many paper books.

quizwedge said...

I'd like to see the model taken by some DVDs. You buy the paper book and get the eBook free. I'm not much of a reader, but it seems to me that there is some benefit to having both that would save paper books if it was only slightly more than the eBook version.

Nomad said...

Not a bad idea, but definitely does away with the advantage of eBooks taking up less space. ;-)

Ron said...

For those of us in research, both have advantages, but only if the e-book is fully searchable. Otherwise, the benefits of a print edition far outweigh any of the negatives.

CRCHAIR said...

I think Price is the key. One reason that so much music is bought digitally now is that it is cheaper to buy MP3 albums than their CD counterparts. So if e-books can stay cheaper than print books, then we will continue to see a movement towards the digital media. If the publishers get greedy and want the same price for e-books as for paper books, then many people will just stick with paper.

"Nick" said...

I prefer books to e-books, if only because I know that I don't need a device to read them.

The big difference between the mp3 taking over the music market and ebooks taking over the reading market is that you always have and always will need a device to listen to music. Reading requires no device. It may be nice to have, but you don't have to have anything other than the book.