[Bell Historians] Library Committee's learned journal

Carl S Zimmerman csz_stl at s...
Sat Apr 12 21:56:50 BST 2003

At 13:50 +0100 2003/04/11, David Bryant wrote:
> > There is still the basic difficulty of getting people to actually commit
>> their research to paper/screen. Is there perhaps a greater satisfaction to
>> be had in having a book printed, rather than putting it on the web,
>> despite the latter's advantages?
>You're probably right about people seeing the publication of a book as more
>of an achievement. It's somethign concrete in a way that the web isn't. And
>a website never seems finished. Even parts which you thought were complete
>can always be tweaked, rewriteen and added to.

Furthermore, the very process of achieving publication of a book 
(finding a publisher, working with an editor, etc.) provides a 
certain degree of validation of one's work. (Sales, of course, are 
the "ultimate" validation for some.) For this reason, 
"self-publishing" has always carried with it an undertone of "well, 
it wasn't good enough for any regular publisher to take on."

On the other hand, a non-fiction book is very much a snapshot in 
time, reflecting the author's view of the subject at the time the 
book went to press. For some subjects, with the right author, that 
can be a very good thing, shedding new light on the whole field of 
endeavor. In other cases, that's veru much a disadvantage.

A Willis had also pointed out that
>An advantage of a Journal is that it could be properly edited by a
>professional. However good one's writing is, an independent critic
>is no bad thing.

As was implied above, this advantage also applies to book publishing. 
The countervailing advantage of publication on the Web is that when 
the inevitable critic (including oneself!) inevitably finds errors or 
omissions that were previously unnoticed, they can be corrected 
promptly, to the benefit of _all_ future readers. (See David's 
remark, above.) The down side of the same process is that one can 
all too easily lose the historical traces that, for example, are 
implicitly preserved in multiple editions of a non-fiction book.

In the end, the potential author must make the final decision as to 
which of the available options s/he will choose, based on a personal 
evaluation of which criterion is the most important. I could 
illustrate this via my own history of publication, but I've said 
enough for now.


More information about the Bell-historians mailing list