The Dictionary Market: Getting Your Words' Worth
And yet regardless of whether or not the public's organic desire for dictionary content has grown, it's certainly true that the content itself is much more ever-present today than it's ever been. Thanks to a partnership with Amazon, for instance, every Kindle e-reader comes bundled with a digital edition of the OED's stateside flagship dictionary, the "New Oxford American Dictionary." As for the online edition of the OED, it receives upwards of two million hits each month from paying subscribers. And due to relationships it has with various licensing and technology companies, content from Oxford dictionaries can now be accessed on mobile phones, handheld devices, GPS devices, various software programs, ebooks and even electronic highlighters and portable scanning translators for students learning a second language.
"And we're just scratching the surface," Martin says. "I don't know what the future holds, but I know it's going to be really cool."
As for Merriam-Webster's John Morse, he has a slightly more nuanced view of the future of dictionary content. If you truly want to understand what's happening in the dictionary business today, says Morse, you need to understand an explanatory phrase that he's been sharing for the past 15 years: The Age of Also.
The Age of Also, Morse admits, isn't a tagline of his own creation. It's an expression, he says, that comes from a speech given in 2000 by Richard Wurman—creator of the TED conference—in which Wurman predicted that during the next 10 to 15 years—The Age of Also—no single type of media would eclipse any other. Wurman's theory went on to predict that where the process of delivering and consuming information was concerned, there wouldn't be just one solution during the first decade or so of the new millennium. Instead, there would be countless numbers of solutions, all equally good. "We really embraced that [idea] to capture what we were doing in the dictionary business," Morse says. "We like to say that people use different dictionaries in different ways on different days, and we want to be there for all of those uses."
Dan Eldridge is a journalist and guidebook author based in Philadelphia's historic Old City district, where he and his partner own and operate Kaya Aerial Yoga, the city's only aerial yoga studio. A longtime cultural reporter, Eldridge also writes about small business and entrepreneurship, travel, and the publishing industry. Follow him on Twitter at @YoungPioneers.