Internet Kills Oxford English Dictionary, Maybe

Oxford University Press is considering discontinuing the print version of the Oxford English Dictionary. What's killing the print dictionary? The same thing that killed your attention span, and your manners, and your marriage: The internet.

You remember the Oxford English Dictionary? It was the 20-volume set of books with all of the words in it. Well, it turns out that Oxford University Press, which has been publishing the OED for 126 years, may not even bother with the next one:

Nigel Portwood, chief executive of Oxford University Press, told The Sunday Times in an interview he didn't think the newest edition will be printed. "The print dictionary market is just disappearing. It is falling away by tens of percent a year," he said.

Why is no one is willing to spend $1,165 on a 750-pound set of books? Well, partly because the current print version of the OED was published in 1989, and therefore doesn't contain definitions for important words like "Furby" and "Justin Bieber." And partly because the print version is mostly bought by schools and universities and esoteric dictionary cults, and once you have one complete set, you don't need another.

But the real reason the print version might get discontinued is the internet, of course: After a round of athletic sexting, 21st-century human beings enjoy looking up words on their computing devices, rather than inside one of 20 large books. At least, human being Ben Robinson does:

Ben Robinson owns a micro-print version of the full Oxford that requires a magnifying glass to read, but the London part-time writer said he rarely uses it these days. Instead, he now consults the iPhone dictionary and thesaurus most often, and sometimes uses the online Oxford English Dictionary when he wants to find out the full history or more meanings of a word.

First of all, who even cares about dictionaries anymore? Isn't the whole point of "postmodernism" that you can make up whatever you want, about anything? Second of all, a "micro-print" version? That you have to use a magnifying glass with? Please. [Makes jerk-off motion with hand]

But wait: What's that you say, Nigel?

Portwood stressed that Oxford University Press has no plans to stop publishing print dictionaries. Schools still rely primarily on printed versions, the publisher said, and demand for its best-seller, the Advanced Learner's Dictionary, is still high among nonnative English learners.

Oh. Never mind.

[AP]