A MAJOR dictionary publisher is making its content available free online on a dedicated website for the first time.
Glasgow-based Collins Language, the dictionary arm of the HarperCollins publishing company, will allow visitors to collinsdictionary.com to check 120,000 English spellings and definitions without charge from tomorrow, increasing to 220,000 entries by March.
It is the first traditional publisher in the UK to offer such a detailed variety of scholarly content without a subscription on the internet, pitting its product against other free-to-access online dictionaries such as dictionary.com and thefreedictionary.com.
Alex Brown, head of digital at Collins Language, said he believed the traditional dictionary remained relevant in the internet age.
He said: “We’ve got a big editorial team and 200 years of experience so we think we can bring something more to that online space than others.
“We want to go up against big free online players in terms of generating advertising revenue, and it’s a market that we definitely want to be in with the best site and content that we can.”
Mr Brown told The Scotsman that, far from limiting the scope of the dictionary, the unlimited volume that a digital platform provides may actually enhance its capacity for learning and research.
“There’s more space online to do things that we wouldn’t have the space to do in print,” he said.
“We have full sentences to put words in context from a book or newspaper and we never do that in print as there’s just no space.
“We also have the last 500 years of word usage, so you can see which words were popular in the Victorian era, or how the word ‘yuppie’ has fallen out of popularity from a peak in the 1980s.”
Collins plans to offer the dictionaries alongside two audio files for a guide to British and American pronunciation.
The publisher will also offer its bilingual French, German, and Spanish dictionaries on the same site, as well as the most commonly-used words in English in up to 35 other languages and a fully integrated thesaurus.
In a further inroad into new media, Collins will source images from the photo sharing website Flickr in order to provide a visual representation of every word in its dictionaries.
“There is an image for just about every single word if someone has tagged that word on Flickr,” he said.
The site will be paid for by advertising, according to Mr Brown.
“We are open about carrying advertising on the site, and we don’t think having a great and user friendly site and advertising are mutually exclusive,” he added.