Books: The Word

In the first five weeks after its publication, the Random House Dictionary of the English Language (TIME, Sept. 30) sold more than 250,000 copies, began to appear on the bestseller lists, and is still going at a lively clip. At a time when the bestsellers tend to be largely composed of sexy stuff, this is indeed a phenomenal showing.

The explanation is relatively simple. For one thing, Random House's dictionary is a bargain: $25 per copy, as against $47.50 for the nearest competitors (Funk & Wagnall's, Webster's Third International). For another, the need for a new big dictionary definitely existed. Webster's...

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