Dictionaries selling equally well in metro & non-metros


With online dictionaries and thesauruses becoming popular, is the market for print versions slowing down? No, says Sunil Mohan, sales & marketing director, Academic & General Books, Oxford University Press (OUP), who further shares his views on this publishing genre. India is the third largest market in the world for English language publications. There is an unprecedented interest and activity to learn the English language which is fueling the growth of Dictionaries and Encyclopedias. The dictionaries market in India is growing at 15 percent.

Digital is getting a big push now globally. It may not be very large now for us in India where print is still the dominant format but almost all our Dictionaries and Thesauruses have now digital links whereby you get 12 months’ access (depending on the dictionary) to the premium dictionary and language reference site Oxford Dictionaries Pro, where you can search the world’s most trusted dictionaries. Encyclopedias are also available online from Oxford Digital Reference Shelf or through Oxford Reference Online offering flexible search and browse functionality and multi user access. Oxford has an array of digital offerings which aids searchability and discoverability.

But, that does not mean that digital has affected print sales. OUP dictionaries sell in metros and non-metros equally well. With our wide range, OUP has the largest reach of usage across India.

Crowd-sourcing since 19th century…

Oxford’s world-renowned range of English Dictionaries is based on the largest language research programme in the world. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) was compiled in the late 19th century using an early form of the crowd-sourcing idea. Volunteers quoted actual word usages on slips of paper, and then posted them to the editor, Professor James Murray. The OED is arguably history’s first massively crowd-sourced collation of English knowledge.

Dictionaries for all age groups & readers…

Our publishing encompasses different age groups, diverse requirements different ability levels, etc. We publish dictionaries and encyclopedias for 5-7 year olds to school-going children to adult learners. Subjects again are as varied as Aesthetics to Economic History to Music.

Apart from the English dictionaries at various levels, we have bilingual dictionaries for foreign and Indian languages, as also subject dictionaries. Our market leadership extends from English dictionaries to bilingual dictionaries to subject dictionaries. We have published bilingual dictionaries in over 40 languages including Hindi, Bengali, Tamil, Odia, Marathi, Gujarati, Telugu, and Kannada, in India. These have made a qualitative difference in our bilingual dictionary market. Subject dictionaries are another area where we have a leadership position. All in all Oxford is one-stop solution for the requirements of our users with different needs.

In the specific context of India, dictionaries publishing began in the 1970s and the following decades saw the Press bring out different kinds of dictionaries ranging from a picture dictionary series to bilingual dictionaries. Plans are afoot to make available OUP India’s dictionaries available in electronic and online formats in the near future with a team of expert editors using specialized software to ensure quality and consistency. Ongoing projects include dictionaries in Malayalam, Kannada, Telugu and Urdu.


Sunil MohanAmong the English dictionaries, the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary continues to be the market leader. Other best-sellers include the Oxford Mini Dictionary, Little Oxford Dictionary, Pocket Oxford Dictionary, Illustrated Primary English Dictionary, and Elementary Learner’s Dictionary. In the bilingual market too all our dictionaries are large sellers including English-English-Hindi, English-English-Odia, and English-English-Marathi.

Average print runs…

Dictionaries run into hundreds of thousands of copies for learner’s dictionaries. The Oxford English Mini Dictionary sells over a million copies. Prices again are made very affordable at the learner dictionary level of around Rs 120 or so to GBP 5000 for our 20 volume Oxford English Dictionary which is an unrivaled guide to the meaning, history and pronunciation of over a half a million words. The Oxford English Dictionary which is regarded as the ultimate authority on the English language is also available online now on a subscription model.

On exports…

OUP India’s territory is limited to our sub-continent. Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh are our big export markets. Oxford Dictionaries and Encyclopedias are a big draw in these markets and the brand is quite strong. India is a very strong publishing branch and our encyclopedias and dictionaries do get exported through our UK and US branches.

About OUP…

Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University’s objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide. The story of OUP spans five centuries of printing and publishing. Beginning with the first presses set up in Oxford in the fifteenth century and the later establishment of a university printing house, it leads through the publication of bibles, scholarly works, and the Oxford English Dictionary, to a later expansion that created the largest university press in the world. Today, OUP has become familiar to millions through a diverse publishing programme. OUP in India has an equally illustrious history, established in 1912, it has grown to be the largest publisher in the country with its high quality diverse publishing touching and changing lives. Our publishing today covers school courses, higher education texts, academic and reference works, dictionaries. We also produce digital aids for teaching and learning.

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