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OED goes the way of all flesh paper

Internet does for weighty print version?

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The Oxford University Press is apparently planning to can the full-fat Oxford English Dictionary - the 20-volume, 22,000-page linguistic epic which weighs in at 150lb.

Yes indeed, it's black armbands all round down at the Daily Mail, which reckons that the next edition - OED3 - will only be available online.

Currently, accessing OED2 over the interwebs costs a "whopping" £240 a year, but that's a snip compared to the £750 you have to stump for the paper version.

Oxford University Press chief exec Nigel Portwood explained: "The print dictionary market is just disappearing - it is falling away by tens of per cent a year."

The Mail describes the decision as "a sad day in the history of one of the world's greatest publishing ventures", one which began in 1857 and now encompasses more than half a million words.

In fact, the Oxford University Press statement on OED3 says: "No decision has yet been made on the format of the third edition. 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."

The first full OED was published in 1928, and the second in 1989. Eighty lexicographers having been slaving over OED3 for 21 years, and have tackled 28 per cent of the task.

Whether the fruit of their labours ever graces the printed page remains to be seen. ®

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