Dictionary publishers to close Edinburgh office

THE publishers of a famous dictionary today announced it planned to close one of its offices.

Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd – the publishers of the Chambers Dictionary – announced proposals to close its Edinburgh office, with all 27 staff expected to be affected.

Bosses had tried to make alternative arrangements, including the possible sale of Chambers, but workers were told that no buyer was forthcoming.

It is now planned that the parts of the businesses – Chambers and Harrap, which publishes bilingual dictionaries – will be separated.

Both had been hit by the steep decline in sales of dictionaries and reference books, with many people now getting such information via the internet.

Chambers was established almost two centuries ago in 1819, by brothers William and Robert Chambers.

At about that time it printed, bound and published 750 copies of The Songs of Robert Burns.

And in 1867 it published its first dictionary – the Chambers Etymological Dictionary – before publishing the Chambers English Dictionary five years later.

Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd (CHPL) was formed after both W and R Chambers Limited and Harrap Limited were acquired by the French publishing conglomerate Groupe de la Cite in 1992, with the two businesses then merged.

CHPL is now part of the Hodder Education Group, which is a division of Hachette UK.

A spokesman for Hachette UK said: "We have enormous respect for the reputation of both imprints. Chambers has a distinguished history in reference publishing and Harrap, from its base in Edinburgh, is a major force in dictionary publishing in France.

"The skill and experience of the staff in both imprints is admired throughout the industry."

However he added: "The market for dictionaries and reference books in print has been in decline for some years and we have looked long and hard for solutions, investigating many options, including trying to find a buyer for Chambers either in Scotland or elsewhere in publishing before ultimately, and very reluctantly, concluding there was no option other than to propose the closure of the Edinburgh offices.

"The digital revolution is changing the way readers consume news and search for information. People are moving away from printed reference books and going online where, generally, they expect to get their information for free.

"This migration affects newspapers and book publishers alike and it is a sad fact that what may be good for the consumer has a major impact on people who earn their living in publishing and journalism."

Under the proposals announced today responsibility for Chambers' titles would shift to Hodder Education in London, while discussions are taking place about transferring responsibility for Harrap's titles to French publishers Larousse.

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