Put simply, the print dictionary is a incredibly well-engineered product that works incredibly well. As one of our editors pointed out, it is the original handheld device.
These thoughts were in our minds as we began thinking about what new features the 11th edition should have. We wanted to answer the question, what should the ideal dictionary look like?
The answer, it turns out, is that the ideal dictionary is not so much a single product as it is a database access tool. And access should be available in whatever forms customers prefer.
We settled on three popular database access models: print, CD-ROM, and online (although dedicated handheld devices and e-book editions from licensees were also part of the plan). Here was a reasonable approximation of the ideal 21st century dictionary, and we could build it now.
But what about those C words? The first C word, cost, was a problem, albeit a manageable one. The first print run was 500,000 copies, so setup costs could be spread over a large number of copies.
We would develop a CD-ROM edition for standalone sales anyway, so extra development costs associated with the bundled CD-ROM would be shared with the print version. Plus, manufacturing costs for CD-ROMs at high volume are quite low.
We have the ability in-house to develop full-featured Web sites at a relatively low cost. The marginal cost of delivering Web access to additional users is relatively low if you already have a Web business, as we do.
CUTTING CD-ROM COSTS
The tricky part: getting the CD-ROM into the book at an affordable price. New technology helped. The Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary is manufactured at Quebecor World's Versailles, Ky., plant.
Shortly before this project arrived for production, Quebecor World installed new machinery for automatically inserting and binding CD-ROMs into books. Thanks to this new equipment, the time and cost for CD insertion were less than half that of a manual process.