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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Is it the year of the textbook or the dictionary?

Scotswoman Vivian Marr speaks French and is the head of language acquisitions at Oxford University Press. She talked at length about the strides her publishing house has taken to spread educational content across digital platforms since its foundation before Columbus went to America! Today living in Edinburgh and travelling a week a month to London, her hands are full, revealed the woman who has worked with every dictionary publisher she can name. The goal and mission of OUP the world's largest university press is  to reach as many markets as possible. OUP has always been at the helm of digitisation of information services with majority of its sales being in Academic (47%) and ELT (31%). OUP goes about seeking big partners in libraries, universities, public libraries and consortia of universities--their biggest market being institutional consumers. They have often invested in long term high end projects like the Chinese-English dictionary scaling £5m or more. They operate much unlike a trade publishing house, where the pressure is on to deliver short term objectives more quickly where there are shareholders and short term inheritors. 

With the rise of the free online dictionaries, the sales of the Oxford Dictionaries declined. This was quickly spotted and the company used XML to move online with big digital licenses. OED online is now an ad sponsored free dictionaryDictionaries being an integral product for OUP, who publish bilingual dictionaries in over 60 different languages, OED being the top dictionary in the English language having over 600,000 words, and being a very important source of revenue, even as an iPad app. OUP was  a quick forerunner in the digitisation of information. They've been very active in this sphere since 15 years, with over 11,000 digital products, online reference works, mobile apps; digitisation has increased their reach—be it digital content or digital learning platforms—a key part of their strategy is digital, with sales doubling in the past three years. OUP now has 150 mobile apps, 28 online products, including on subjects like medicine, law, and Oxford Scholarship online, and it has more than 400 Higher education resource centers. Their online products reach EVERY country with subsidised costs for lesser developed markets. 

Marr is very involved with global licensing to major technology companies and more lately with sentiment analysis, which she elaborates, is a brand management tool that companies are using,  by collecting vast amounts of content to analyse what people are thinking about a brand, product, behaviour or a personality (this is often conducted for politicians, products or trends). 

OUP's appointed editors or 'delgates' are presided over by the Vice Chancellor of the University. A rigorous scrutiny and editorial process is put through each manuscript. OUP's online products reach every country, and while their matter across all platforms is similar, it differs in size (depending on space). The success of OUP is largely commercial, she reveals with pride.

With UK's big educational publishers like SAGE, Pearson, Cambridge University Press and OUP riding big initiatives in digital content and delivery, one wonders if the C/OUP will be led by the textbook, or the dictionary?!

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