Blog Post

Electronic dictionary hunt

A few times lately, I’ve thought about how useful it would be to have a dictionary on my computer.

I facilitate quite a few workshops, and I’m often asked questions about word definitions and word usage that I’d like the check before answering. How handy it would be to have my trusty Oxford dictionary loaded onto my computer for a quick search. And how much better for workshop participants than to have me give a slightly uncertain response with the promise that I’ll check the answer and get back to them.

I have a Kindle reader on my netbook, so I thought that the Kindle version of the Oxford dictionary would be the perfect solution for me. A quick download and a payment of $48 … sounds perfect.

Except for one problem … the Kindle for PC Oxford dictionary cannot be searched! A very patient person could find the definition for any word that they wanted using my Kindle dictionary – but patience isn’t something that I’m well known for. And a non-searchable dictionary certainly isn’t going to work in a workshop setting.

I returned the Kindle version of my dictionary, and one day I’ll put some effort into finding a suitable alternative. It seems incredible that Oxford doesn’t sell computer-based dictionaries. (Yes, I know they’re available online, but when I’m running a workshop I rarely have an internet connection.) I’ve found free downloadable dictionaries, but will need to do a bit of research about which ones can be trusted.

When I returned the Kindle dictionary, I was struck by the transient nature of electronic books. I received an email confirming that I was returning the dictionary, and then it disappeared! So different from the process of returning a hard copy book, and it left me with the slightly uncomfortable feeling that my $48 didn’t really buy me a dictionary at all … it simply bought me the right to look at a document held by and controlled by someone else.