(CBS) — The Oxford English Dictionary has long been a standard in most schools, colleges and homes, but publishers say that is changing.
Future generations may not be able to see the extended entries on paper that include the citations of material, and chart the development of the word in time.
Oxford publishers say smaller dictionaries will always be available , but the next complete edition will be so big – and so expensive – it may only be released online.
“We haven’t actually decided whether or not if we are going to print, until once we actually finish the dictionary,” said Fiona McPerson, Senior Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary.
The Oxford English Dictionary is the historical record of the English language, whether it’s the leather and hard bound first edition put out about 130 years ago, or the massive 20-volume second edition, published in 1989.
More than 70 “dictionary detectives” are working on new words for the third edition.
McPherson says, “It’s about identifying and tracking, as much as it is defining.”
It’s also about being relevant in the internet age.
Many students say they look words up online. They seem to rely on sites like Google to find definitions of words they don’t know.
The concise Oxford dictionary is updated every few years in print and every quarter on-line …. New words include selfie and wackadoodle. But editors say they are only a third of the way through updating the complete edition and publication is at least a decade away.