The paper quality of this 2011 centenary 12th edition is better than the 2008 predecessor. It is whiter and the print reads well, so it is comfortable to the eye. The paper is also tougher.
The layout of the 10th edition is superior and better spaced, and one can hope future editions can revert to more generous spacing and previous typeface. All three editions mentioned above weigh exactly the same, have similar number of pages but the 2011 edition is about 1 cm thinner, 5.5 cm. This makes it so much easier to grasp, hold and handle. Aesthetically sleeker, it is also harder to drop during usage.
Nearly the entire reference section has changed to include useful information, and has welcome additions such as
*Lists of Prime Ministers and Presidents of the major countries of the world;
*UK Kings and Queens and years of their reign; States of the USA with their capitals;
*Weights measures and notations;
*The Greek alphabet;
*The solar system and the major moons;
*The chemical elements, although a classical Periodic Table chart would have been useful.
The countries of the world have been put back, along with the attendant capitals, areas, current populations and currency units. The one page list of collective nouns (e.g. "a drunkship of cobblers", a "golzing of taverners", "a covey of ptarmigan",) has been retained.
This thin reference section of only 14 pages is located between the letters J and K. The centre section of the 2008 edition contained a few pages of very useful "Foreign Words and Phrases". I would like to see all commonly used Foreign Words and Phrases, incorporated into the main body of the dictionary. Single foreign words, like zeitgeist, schadenfreude (now in lower case), cognoscenti, have largely been incorporated into the body of the 2011 edition, so have phrases like "sui generis" and "raison d'etre". But the absence of commonly encountered phrases such as "ex gratia" and "a capella" is really regrettable.
If you need a comprehensive dictionary with 75,000 root words instead of the usual 25,000, you would expect a large number of foreign phrases to pop up regularly in your reading material. Syndicated newspaper columnists are prone to spice up their articles with obscure foreign phrases, which they can legitimately use, if these pompous foreign phrases are consonant with the theme of their articles. I would like to have a dictionary deal with such "foreign phrase" contingencies.
The 2008 edition had an interesting centre middle section, which included:
*English Uncovered: telling us how Oxford tracks the English language, with interesting information like the 100 most commonly used words ("the" tops the list), words with the most meanings ("set" has 156), and how English is changing. One reading of this essay is enough, and should not be repeated with every edition.
*Fascinating words, some of which like "rhinoplasty" have been incorporated into the dictionary as they have ceased to be fascinating.
*Guide to Good English: does not belong to a dictionary: nobody buys a dictionary to learn Grammar.
These sections have rightfully been removed.
The 2011 edition has fewer word usage bubbles, where a tinted bubble explains how words are used. It draws the attention of the user to the differences between "discreet" and "discrete", for instances. For a dictionary, which has to catch up with increasing number of words in actual use, such amplifications on English usage wastes valuable space. This dictionary is clearly not for learners of English. There is the Advanced Learner's English Dictionary by Oxford for this purpose. These "word usage" bubbles look so much like cut and paste jobs from "Fowler's Modern English Usage", a copy of which can be purchased separately. Previous editions did not have these superfluous bubbles, and this experiment in the recent editions must now be considered a failure.
The sheer large number of entries in this "Concise" dictionary suggests that this dictionary is for those way, way, way, way, way past the beginner's learning stage of English. With this dictionary, it is hard to hit a dead end searching for a word, even at college level and when reading some exotic "intellectual" essays.
The 2011 edition has a one-off 9-page essay on the evolution of the Concise Oxford over 100 years. These 9 celebratory pages will not be relevant in future editions. There are interesting bubbles throughout the dictionary on how the word was defined in the first 1911 edition versus its current 2011 usage. These bubbles would only be relevant in a centenary edition.
The space saved would be applied to an ever-expanding vocabulary, and also other important reference material. Your table-top dictionary should have:
A. All the words you are likely to encounter in the course of your reading; AND
B. Important reference material and tables which I need to refer to occasionally, such as:
a. table of military ranks in major armed forces, and service arms
b. signs of the Zodiac
c. Chinese Zodiac
d. Wedding Anniversaries and corresponding materials
f. Counties of the UK
g. Books of the Bible
i. Morse Code (which I may need in an emergency)
j. NATO alphabetical pronouncing code
k. Roman numerals
l. A political map of the world (this is getting important as events are happening in places most people have never heard of).
m. Fibonacci numbers, fractions and corresponding decimals, for those who dabble in the stock market.
All the above can easily be accommodated by the 9 pages saved in future non-centenary editions. Incidentally, a table of symbols is hidden on page xxix, in the rather prolix introduction to the dictionary.
I welcome the return of the conversion tables. Next time, do not convert 1 square metre or 1 acre to archaic square yards. For real estate use today, the conversion is to square feet. Valuation is done in price per square foot, although your mortgagee bank manager thinks in square metres. A conversion of ounces into grammes is getting very important in a world where gold trading is getting prominent. A conversion of feet and inches into metric is important. When my architect tells me that the kitchen stove is 600 mm height, or that somebody is 1.82 metres tall, I would like to know what it is in old fashioned feet and inches. My BMI is calculated in metric height and weight, not stones, lbs and feet and inches. Oxford needs to thoroughly update its conversion tables to bring it in line with modern usage.
The dictionary is made in the UK. The binding is slightly better than previous editions, but the hinges of the hard covers are still atrocious. Oxford has probably sized up the users of this dictionary as people who handle books gently. If a new version comes out every few years, cost is a more important consideration than the toughness of the volume.
The physical book is easily the shoddiest dictionary I have ever bought. Politically correct buyers can take some comfort that the manufacture of the book was not outsourced. But for the content, this dictionary is a bargain for its price and really has no peer in its class.