Big Idea: What Publishers Can Learn from the 1864 Webster's Dictionary
And so it was that a new production model for dictionaries was invented, one that all future dictionaries would use, including the Oxford English Dictionary, which was then in its planning stages.
Big Idea #3: Be willing to invest in times of economic uncertainty.
A revision of this scope requires a huge investment, which the publishers were willing to do, even though this was a time of great economic uncertainty. The early years of the project were marked by financial panics, crop failures, and widespread bankruptcies. And to point out the obvious, most of the work was done while the Civil War was raging.
The whole project took a lot of guts, but the gamble paid off. The dictionary was a complete success. It restored the reputation of Webster's dictionary, which was beginning to tarnish; it won out decisively over its closest rival, and it secured the company's future for generations to come.
The three big ideas of course boil down to one, expressed by several writers of that period: "Be bold, be bold, and everywhere be bold."
John Morse is the president and publisher of Merriam-Webster.
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