Back in March, we reported that Wikipedia and the Internet had finally killed off 244-year-old Encyclopaedia Britannica. While this wasn’t massively surprising, and is very much indicative of the way things are going across the media world, it was still a poignant moment.

With that in mind, another well-known brand in the print-based publishing sphere is unfurling the white flag and giving in to the digital revolution, with Macmillan Dictionaries ceasing print to go online only.

Just to recap, Macmillan Education is a division of Macmillan Publishers, the London-headquartered company founded way back in 1843. Its Oxford-based Education division is one of the world’s best-known publishing brands, specializing in English-language learning materials for schools globally. The company laid claim to being among the oldest independent publishers all the way through to 1995, when German media giant Georg von Holtzbrinck Publishing Group snapped up 70% of the firm, before buying the remaining shares in 1999.

Since its launch in 2009, the company says that Macmillan Dictionary Online has seen explosive growth and is remaining upbeat, with Editor-in-Chief Michael Rundell noting that the transition “can only be a positive one.” Indeed, Rundell reckons that Macmillan’s dictionaries have found their ideal medium.

“The traditional book format is very limiting for any kind of reference work,” he says. “Books are out-of-date as soon as they’re printed, and the space constraints they impose often compromise our goals of clarity and completeness. There is so much more we can do for our users in digital media. While printed dictionaries only get updated every four or five years, Macmillan’s online presence means we can add new words and phrases on a regular basis, reflecting the ever-changing role of English as the lingua franca of science, business, academia and social media.”

Macmillan Dictionary Online constitutes an English dictionary and thesaurus, as well as a blog about issues such as the use of certain words in the news (e.g. ‘pleb’), and a weekly ‘Buzzword’ column.

“Our research tells us that most people today get their reference information via their computer, tablet, or phone,” continues Stephen Bullon, Macmillan Education’s Publisher for Dictionaries. “And the message is clear and unambiguous: the future of the dictionary is digital.”

The final print copies of Macmillan Dictionaries are rolling off the presses now, and from 2013 Macmillan Dictionary will be available on the Web only.

So, a sad day in many respects as it heralds the end of an era. But there’s little point fighting the digital onslaught…here’s hoping Macmillan will continue in its new online-only guise for some time to come yet.

Meanwhile, check out its new ‘The Macmillan Dictionary is going places’ video below.

Feature Image Credit – Thinkstock