The Oxford University Press, the publisher, said Sunday so many people prefer to look up words using its online product that it's uncertain whether the 126-year-old dictionary's next edition will be printed on paper at all.
"At present we are experiencing increasing demand for the online product," a statement from the publisher said. "However, a print version will certainly be considered if there is sufficient demand at the time of publication."
Nigel Portwood, chief executive of Oxford University Press, told The Sunday Times in an interview he didn't think the newest edition will be printed. "The print dictionary market is just disappearing. It is falling away by tens of percent a year," he said.
And that ain't no lie...
Currently, the online version of the Oxford Dictionary gets about 2 million hits a month (not too shabby considering those hits come from subscribers paying out $295 a year to do so) while the current hard copy of the dictionary- a 20 volume set released in 1989 that retails for $1165- has sold a grand total of 30,000 copies.
When I look up "extinction"...
The Oxford dictionary isn't the first publication to go all digital... and it certainly will not be the last.
Encyclopedias have been totally online for years now and every year more and more newspapers and books (both text and recreational) have been getting released online.
So for the Oxford Dictionary to go paperless to me seem like just the natural order of things; Just another relic being pushed out on to the ice float of antiquity by the ease and finger tip convenience of the internet and other technological wonders.
While most of you reading this are out there probably handing out hi-fives to one another while dancing around the forests of trees that will be spared by the growing number of paperless publications (kind of like this one) that are popping up everywhere, there is a part of me that is completely freaked out by hearing this news.
Like sands of an hourglass...
For a few weeks now I have been on this whole "Lost Technologies of the Ancients" kick (due to my heavy listening of Coast to Coast AM), and for some reason as I was looking into this story I found myself thinking about that.
Hear me out:
For those of you already familiar with the concept of "Lost Technologies of the Ancients", please indulge me for a few while I catch everyone else up...
The basic jist of the "Lost technologies..." theory is that Human civilization is not the thousands of years old (depending n who you ask between 5-7 thousand years old) we have been taught to believe but rather hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of years old and "Extinction events" (be they natural or self imposed) come along every so often and hammer humanity so hard that we end up falling into a huge "Dark Age" where we forget everything we worked o hard to discover and essentially have to start from scratch.
Usually I do not buy into it at all, finding the theories around it to be beautifully imagined stories with little more than a few myths (usually Indian)and a couple of Ancient Wonders to back it up. But as I read the press release about the dictionary possibly going totally web based next year it made my mind flash into the whole "LTotA" thing and suddenly it all made perfect sense.
With all our books and written publications going digital (not too far a stretch to think we could be paperless in a few years... pictures, music, and movies for the most part have pretty much already gone that way), it is conceivable that should the power "go out" for a long enough period of time (be it by solar storm, cataclysm, or EMP) so too would fade our knowledge.
One flip of the switch and humans are two generations away from being back in the Stone Age.
Simple as that...
Not that a tangible book would be able to do much about our species' current state of devolution or do anything in the line of curbing our seeming blind march into oblivion.
But something tells me that once the shit goes down (and invariably it will), a tangible book that does not depend on electricity to operate might be able to share its wisdom longer that my iPad, which needs to be plugged in every couple of hours or so.
Which is what got me to the understanding with this whole "Lost Technologies" nonsense...
See, if these cultures that came before were so advanced (some Indian myths have spoken of flying machines and a nuclear Armageddon having been o this Earth thousands of years ago), then they too must have figured out some technological way of keeping together all of their information (something tells me the secrets to ancient nuclear fusion were not tapped out on clay tablets by slaves). This way, no doubt, would be operational using whatever source of power they used at the time (popular theory among many in the know on this topic is the harnessing and directing of energy coming out of crystals that gain their energy from the Earth). Following that thought, once these people were wiped from the face of the Earth (however it occurred) so too would have been the knowledge of the power source for all of their wonderful inventions.
And as anyone who has ever run out of gas or left their lap top charger at home knows, once the juice runs out or technology is pretty useless to us.If we are to believe the theory that civilizations are all cyclical and that their rises and falls are applied as a rule for living on this planet, that this Earth of ours has seen many Men go (sort of) where we have gone before and will see more do it again, and that each of these epochs of Man has produced its own genius then it is plausible- looking at how we are getting further and further away from tangibly recording or own achievement- to see how if something bad enough were to occur that all of our knowledge and achievement might too end up one day being the subject of a "lost technologies of the Ancients" discussion on some paranoid radio program.