Macmillan to drop print, go all digital with dictionaries

CHICAGO — Macmillan Education said Monday it will cease publishing a print edition of its dictionaries, following other publications into an online-only format as print sales decline.

Final editions of the dictionaries now are being printed.

Macmillan Education, a unit of Macmillan Publishers Ltd., said it will focus on its expanding digital resources, including an English language dictionary and thesaurus, a column on emerging words and Open Dictionary, which allows users to submit new words and slang such as Frankenstorm. Macmillan said its online venture has seen explosive growth since its launch in 2009.

Editor-in-Chief Michael Rundell said the printed dictionaries mostly sell in the English-as-a-second-language market in Asia and South America. The United States became a primary market when the dictionary became available online, which generates about 10 million visits a month, Rundell said.

However, he said, demand for printed books steadily has declined. As an example, Rundell said that in 2002, when the company began publishing dictionaries, 50,000 copies were sold in Korea. Now, he said, sales would be just a fraction of that figure because Korean students do everything online.

Still, he said, he sees exiting print as positive because it ends the space issue.

"The print edition was limited. Lots of dictionaries are difficult to read because everything has to be compressed; there are lots of abbreviations. They are designed to fit a lot of information in a small space and there is not that problem on the Web."


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