Internet Threatens Dictionary Sales

May 29, 2007

DictionaryRecent research conducted by Book Marketing Ltd., has highlighted a significant drop in reference books including dictionaries by as much as 40% over the past four years.

Dictionaries, encyclopaedias and atlases, perhaps three of the most vital reference books for readers and writers alike, have plummeted in sales due to the increasing impact of online resource material in the UK alone, with some publishers going as far as to predict a total cessation of sales altogether in the next few years.

Oxford English Dictionaries will later this year launch an enhanced online service to its customers, in an effort to remain ahead of the English-language competition. Casper Grathwohl, Executive of Oxford University Press said: “People still want dictionary authority and material, they are just going to different sources for it.

“Once you establish a brand in print and that is your medium for hundreds of years, it is a challenge to transfer it online, so there is nostalgia, but no more than in the fact that books in general are being superseded by online resources.”

Grathwohl promised Oxford would live up to its scholarly reputation, and added: “It doesn’t come in a nice package to give someone as a gift at Christmas or for graduation, but it’s probably a better tool for them when they go off to university.”

Bestselling Scottish author, Julie Bertagna, believes there would be a loss “in so many areas of life” were dictionaries to disappear entirely.

“At the moment I think we have a wonderful balance of reference systems with paper dictionaries and internet access,” she said. “It’s important for children to learn all kinds of reference skills, like using a dictionary and a telephone directory. Internet source dictionaries are also important because of the speed at which we are acquiring new words.”

Publishers, authors and booksellers met last week at the Booksellers Association Conference to discuss the future of the book industry and the decline of the reference book.

Francis Bennett, Managing Director of BookData, said that while booksellers were working on digital strategies, many publishers were unsure what they should be doing to respond to the challenge.

“I don’t think the industry has come up with any major solutions,” he said. “It’s a bit like planting seeds, and what we have got in the field is a few things popping up, but nothing has actually grown.

“Ultimately, it allows us to get content to more people in more ways. I think it’s a profoundly important development which will change the book trade for many years to come.”

~ Colin Galbraith ~


One comment

  1. Even though I often use the internet to look things up, I still prefer to hold the book in my hand, or have it open on the desk as I work.

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