Wednesday, October 01, 2008

A Horrible Sign of the Times.

My heart is breaking, and some of my cherished dreams are dying:

Oxford closes Canadian dictionary division

TORONTO - The Oxford University Press has laid off all employees at its Canadian dictionary division in Toronto, shutting down the department due to "changing market conditions," according to a statement released Wednesday. David Stover, the president of the Canadian branch, said the closure will allow the company to refocus its publishing mandate as online sources become more popular than hard-copied dictionaries.

"There's no doubt there is an overall secular decline in print dictionaries, not only in Canada but worldwide," he said from the company's Toronto headquarters. "We remain the market leader but there is a definite downward trend of print dictionaries and a definite upward trend of in the use of online sources, many of which are free to users." ...

"The dictionary program will continue," he said. "In fact, we are investigating new opportunities for print and online reference publishing in various areas, and we are hoping with the restructuring can make those possibilities for viable for us."

The production of future Canadian Oxford dictionaries will be outsourced to freelance editors now that the company has dismissed the two full-time employees and two part-time employees in the dictionary division.

The CanOx, created in 1991, has become a mainstay of Canadian publishing and lexicography. Since the demise of the Nelson Canadian Dictionary, CanOx has been the go-to for Canadian spelling: doughnut, traveller, labour, cheque.

I know there are some excellent freelance editors, but I really don't understand how a freelancer, working offsite, on a project-by-project basis can do the kind of ongoing lexical monitoring and tracking of usage and spelling and linguistic trends that a lexicographer and editor working with the full resources of a company that has made dictionaries for over a hundred years can.

My heart goes out to Katherine Barber, and the other three former OUP employees.