November 8, 2012

End of an era for Macmillan dictionaries


Macmillan has announced that as of next year it will no longer print its monolingual dictionaries for learners of English; they’ll be available online only. Editor-in-chief Michael Rundell is quoted in the Guardian:

The traditional book format is very limiting for any kind of reference work. Books are out of date as soon as they’re printed, and the space constraints they impose often compromise our goals of clarity and completeness. There is so much more we can do for our users in digital media.

He goes on to say that the online dictionary will be updated on a regular basis to include the frequent new coinages coming from science, business, academic and social networking:

Think of all the new vocabulary that came with the global financial crisis, for example [when we got to know about subprime mortgages, credit default swaps, and quantitative easing], or the linguistic consequences of the social networking revolution [words like unfollow, defriend, and Twittersphere]: Facebook and Twitter were just starting up when the last [printed] edition of the Macmillan Dictionary appeared in 2007, and had yet to make an impact on the language. Nowadays we can add new words on a regular basis – the latest batch includes outlier, soft power, smirting, and mumpreneur – and this has huge advantages for our users.

According to the Guardian piece, the Oxford English Dictionary has also announced that its next edition — due out in about a decade — is unlikely to appear in print.



Ellie Robins is an editor at Melville House. Previously, she was managing editor of Hesperus Press.