The web edition of the Oxford English Dictionary will be launched in March. The 20-volume second edition will be updated continually and aims to encourage user interactivity.
The edition includes a first instalment of 1000 entirely new, revised entries and three additional volumes, featuring 9000 new words and meanings published between 1993 and 1997. The site, www.oed.com, will be augmented every quarter by instalments of new and revised material from the dictionary's ongoing revision programme.
Chief editor John Simpson says the move was prompted by US academics who asked if the dictionary, released on CD-ROM in the late 1980s, would also be available online. Planning for the web version began five years ago.
Mind your language
Oxford English Dictionary Online will let users search both new and unrevised texts and switch between them to see how the language has developed. Pronunciation, etymologies, variant spellings and quotations can be turned on or off as desired. Users will also have a say in the development of services.
"One of the other purposes of publishing online is that we can receive and respond to suggestions from users more quickly," says Simpson. Other possible developments include links from the dictionary to other sites, games, and audio representations of words.
It will not be a free service. Susanna Lob, sales marketing manager for Oxford English Dictionary Online, says Oxford University Press' status prohibits it from allowing advertising on the site.
"We hope to cover the cost of putting the Oxford English Dictionary online through subscriptions," she says. Individual annual subscriptions will cost £350 plus VAT.
Oxford University Press will concentrate on the institutional market in the short term, offering the web edition to the higher education and public library sectors through a four-band pricing system.
The launch takes place in the tenth year of the Oxford University Press' ongoing revision process. The programme is expected to be completed in 2010 at a cost of £35 million. It is the first time in the dictionary's 150-year history that such a move has taken place.
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