It looks like tough days ahead for the Oxford English Dictionary, for decades the final word on words. Though in all fairness, it’s never been an easy haul.
The first edition, published in 1858, took 70 years to complete. The current edition, volume three, is currently 20 years behind schedule, though maybe it doesn’t matter. New OED editor, Michael Profitt, says it’s possible that edition will never appear in print. From The Telegraph:
It is the world’s most definitive work on the most global language, but the Oxford English Dictionary may be disappearing from bookshelves forever.
Publishers fear the next edition will never appear in print form because its vast size means only an online version will be feasible, and affordable, for scholars.
It’s all academic for now anyway, they say, because the third edition of the famous dictionary, estimated to fill 40 volumes, is running at least 20 years behind schedule.
Michael Proffitt, the OED’s first new chief editor for 20 years, said the mammoth masterpiece is facing delays because “information overload” from the internet is slowing his compilers.
His team of 70 philologists, including lexicographers, etymologists and pronunciation experts, has been working on the latest version, known as OED3, for the past 20 years.