OED no longer “in print”?

The Third Edition is a mutation. It is weightless, taking its shape in the digital realm. To keyboard it, Oxford hired a team of 150 typists in Florida for 18 months. (That was before the verb keyboard had even found its way in, as Simpson points out; not to mention the verb outsource.) No one can say for sure whether OED3 will ever be published in paper and ink. By the point of decision, not before 20 years or so from now, it will have doubled in size yet again. In the meantime, it is materializing before the world’s eyes, bit by bit, on line. It is a thoroughgoing revision of the entire text, expected to cost around $55 million, involving a permanent staff of 70 plus hundreds of freelancers, consultants, and volunteers in Oxford and around the world. Whereas the Second Edition just added new words and new usages to the original entries, the current project is researching and revising from scratch-preserving the history, but aiming at a more coherent whole.

The new Oxford English Dictionary, currently 28% completed, is expected to be done in approximately ten years. There’s been a bit of hubub in the news lately because when asked if they’re going to publish the newest version on paper, the response was “I don’t think so.” which was clarified with a statement saying that the completion was still a decade off and “a decision on format will be taken at that point.” Makes sense right? I’d love an OED that was keyword searchable even though I will always have fond feelings for the 20 volume set that I rescued from a dumpster [discarded because it could not be sold, thank you my unnamed librarian accomplice!]. In the short-but-growing discussion on MetaFilter, someone mentions that what are really precious are the original plates used to print the first edition. Simon Winchester tells a story about those plates in an Author’s Note to his book The Professor and the Madman. I am personally more interested in the Vault of Failed Words.

secret rooms in libraries

One of the librarians showed me the secret room in the library if I’d write something about it. There is a secret room in the ceiling of VTC’s Hartness Library. Eames in the eaves You turn a key in a keyhole in a brick wall and a staircase descends from the ceiling with a great rumbling. Climing the stairs gets you into a disused room that used to be the bindery area but is now just used for storing shelves and old Eames chairs. It’s an odd and noisy room since it’s right next to the room where all the HVAC equipment is. They don’t use the room anymore because of ADA requirements and because it’s darned complicated to get into and out of when the library is open. I’ll add this freaky little room to my list of library attics and basements that I’ve been compiling. Places that don’t have elevators, places that are inaccessible or otherwise tough to get into. Thanks, Ben, for showing me another one. Here’s the list I can put together off the top of my head so far.


obligatory joke about reading while in the can

Travelling Commode in form of Large Book…. an unusual example of the use of the book form to disguise travelling personal furniture, probably for use on the military field.”

SkyRiver vs. OCLC antitrust lawsuit

“In a move that could have far-reaching implications for competition in the library software and technology services industry, SkyRiver Technology Solutions, LLC has filed suit in federal court in San Francisco against OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc. The suit alleges that OCLC, a purported non-profit with a membership of 72,000 libraries worldwide, is unlawfully monopolizing the markets for cataloging services, interlibrary lending, and bibliographic data, and attempting to monopolize the market for integrated library systems, by anticompetitive and exclusionary practices. ” Karen Coyle has a great series of posts explaining what is really going on

The article quotes Karen Coyle as saying

As the representative of a major ILS company explained to me a few years ago, the library market is a zero-sum game: every time one vendor wins, others must lose, because the number of customers is not growing. The library market is a pie that can be divided into any number of slices, but the pie remains the same. This makes the rise of any one company a threat to all. In the commercial marketplace, the vendors compete over functionality and price. With its non-profit status OCLC has a distinct advantage: it doesn’t pay federal income tax on the revenues it brings in. That said, given its size and depth of its involvement in day-to-day library operations, it is plausible that even without its non-profit status OCLC would be a formidable competitor for ILS vendors.

Interesting times indeed. Follow the conversation on Twitter by looking for the skyoclc tag or read posts to the autocat mailing list that mention SkyRiver and OCLC. [via openlibrary]