Erin McKeanWhat can the history and present state of reference publishing tell us about the future of publishing?

As keynote speaker opening the PubWest 2017 conference in Portland, Oregon, Erin McKean notes that dictionaries have stood in the vanguard of publishing ever since the first English dictionary appeared in 1604, more than a hundred years before Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. The founder of, the world’s biggest online dictionary, McKean says her professional goal is to make every word in the English language “lookupable” – including the 52% of unique English words that aren’t currently in any dictionary.

PubWest LogoBefore opening Wordnik, Erin McKean was the editor-in-chief of American Dictionaries for Oxford University Press. Erin McKean’s 2007 TED talk, “Redefining the Dictionary,” inspired her to start Wordnik. McKean is the author of three Weird and Wonderful Words books, and most recently The Hundred Dresses: The Most Iconic Styles of our Time. She has written regular columns for the Boston Globe and the Wall Street Journal.

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