The venerable institution that is the 126-year-old Oxford English Dictionary may no longer be made available in print, with the OED's publishers seriously considering an online-only release for the forthcoming third edition.

The OED3 will be the first new edition since 1989 and could well be made available in its entirety online according to the AP.

The current print version of the OED weighs over 130 pounds, so it's easy to see why smartphone-toting academics might well be more inclined to opt for a subscription to the online-only version in the future.

Print market is disappearing

Nigel Portwood, Chief Exec of Oxford University Press says that online revenue is an increasingly important aspect of the business, adding that the publisher is considering dropping print versions of the new OED completely.

Portwood told The Sunday Times: "The print dictionary market is just disappearing. It is falling away by tens of percent a year."

The online version of the OED, while still costing £205 + VAT for individuals to subscribe to gets around two million hits per year from subscribers right now.

New online version in December

Oxford University Press has a team of 80 lexographers working on OED3, which has already been in development for over a decade. No word as yet on when it might be released.

A new online version of the OED is planned for launch in December, which will include a historical thesaurus to improve the ease of cross-referencing.

"At present we are experiencing increasing demand for the online product," said a statement from Oxford University Press.

"However, a print version will certainly be considered if there is sufficient demand at the time of publication."

Via The Washington Post