Monday, 30 August 2010

Tempora mutantur

Et nos in illis mutamur


Oxford University Press, I read yesterday, is preparing the third edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (thirty volumes of it in the second edition). So far the third edition has taken twenty-one years  and umpteen millions of pounds to prepare. It is in the news now because OUP has announced that there will no paper edition – instead, the third edition of the OED will be published online.

Shame about the long line of new, dark-blue volumes that will not now be gracing library shelves, but I understand and respect OUP's reason for doing this. The world has changed, in ways unimaginable in the twenty-one years ago since work began on the the OED's third edition, and the mechanisms and economics of publishing dictionaries have to change with them.

I gather that atlases may soon be following along the same road.


Conductive Education Press held a strategy meeting last week. That sounds grand but means no more than that Gill Maguire, Elliot Clifton and I spun out a cup out of whatever each for two hours or so in Starbucks in Birmingham's Bullring Centre. We are currently putting two books to bed, to appear before Christmas, so it is a good time to raise out eyes and consider what we do next, to ensure the future of CEP in 2011 and beyond..

As in great things, so in small . To put it differently: from the sublime to the ridiculous. Amongst the topics that we discussed last week was on-line publication – e-books

CEP is about as far removed across the scale of things from OUP as it is possible to get. OUP is the largest university publishing house in the world, bigger even than Harvard's and Yale's. CEP is a part-time interest of three unemployed, unwaged people who make not a penny out of this venture and never will, and who cannot pay their authors either. All the same, we smell the same technological and economic wind as does OUP

We are in no hurry, there is no business plan to be served and our market is hardly yapping at our heels. So all that we concluded on Thursday was that e-publishing is bound to come, quicker probably than we and our market currently foresee, and that shall keep the technology and the economics under review, so as to be ready when it does. Things might look rather different in a year's time, and we had better be ready.


In ways unimaginable in the twenty-one years since work began on the third edition of the OED the world has changed immeasurably, in more than just publishing. Work began on the third edition in 1989, around the time of the first heady flush of attempts to establish Conductive Education outside its country of origin. There has been lime for a lot of change, and for a lot of plans to come to naught. Yet more change may be hurrying close behind.

Meanwhile, watch out for announcement of two new (paper) books from CEP. Together they offer source materials aplenty to for consideration of the impact of economics upon individuals' endeavours to extend the benefit of CE, and to prompt one to wonder about whether new technologies ought at least to be playing some small part towards achieving this goal.

And being printed on paper, they may even become collectibles!

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