Monday, July 14, 2008

Readers/Edited Collections are Hard Work

I've been working frantically to get the First-Year Writing (FYW) Reader done before the new TAs come in August. I've really enjoyed doing this work with Nancy and Collin, but the process hasn't gone as smoothly as anticipated. Basically, anyone who does a textbook reader with a publisher has to select the readings/essays/articles/whatever they want to go in that reader etc. The publisher of that reader has to get permissions ( with the help of a primis editor) for the readings you select to be published in the reader. (For those less familiar with how primis works, this is slightly different from coursepacks because the permissions (to reprint texts) process isn't done exclusively through the campus bookstore and/or university; instead, it is done with a book publishing company, in our case McGraw-Hill).

A few weeks back Nancy, Collin, and I sent the final bibliography of all the readings we want to appear in the Reader, thinking we had finally finished with the Reader business; however, a few issues with our primis editor arose:

1) McGraw-Hill still needed hard copies of select readings they didn't have access to in their permissions database. When Collin, Nancy, and I finalized our bibliography, we included readings that TAs ( from last year) requested to go in the Reader--readings we didn't necessarily have in our libraries ourselves and readings McGraw-Hill didn't have access to. This meant we had to find colleagues who had these readings, scan them, and send them to the Primis editor. Thanks to Dánielle, we were able find many of these readings and send them quite quickly to the primis editor, which was EXTREMELY helpful due to pressing deadlines. Dánielle is FABULOUS and has one of the best libraries in her office I've ever seen :-). A huge shout-out to her!

2) We couldn't always locate the original sources for some of the readings. The original sources for some of the texts we wanted to include were either out of print or difficult to find. For one particular source we couldn't remember who we lent the book too, which came from an edited reader. The reader was updated to a new edition, with the older edition being out of print. Eventually we found the older edition on and purchased it. The only problem is that we're still waiting for the book to be delivered, therefore causing more delays with the production of the reader. We'll get it soon (I hope).

3) Locating original sources that include images are difficult to find. A few of our selections include images that we also need permission to include. In many cases, though, the readings with the images appear in edited collections or other reprinted texts. Again, this meant that we had to locate the original sources, and then the images from the original sources. Once again, Dánielle helped us track down many of these sources and images, since most of them focus on visual rhetoric and technology. GoogleScholar helped us too!

4) Works cited pages that appear at the end of books can pose challenges when using partial chapters for readers. For a few selections we decided to include one chapter or two from single-authored larger books. Our primis editor contacted us and requested the works cited pages for the chapters we wanted to include. The only problem was that the works cited pages appearing at the end of books were works cited pages for the entire book, and not individual chapters. Trying to locate only those sources cited in particular chapters may not only be daunting, but also risky (especially this late in the game), increasing the likelihood of error. Therefore, we sent the works cited pages for the entire books to the editor.

I'm not intending to complain here, quite contrary. I really think that doing this type of intellectual work has been a learning experience for me, similar to what editors do when they do edited collections. In many ways selecting, editing, and sequencing the texts that appear in the Reader pose more difficulties than drafting a chapter to be included in an edited collection because you're responsible for everything that appears in the book and not just your own piece. Doing this type of work is a tremendous responsibility and you get to really see the entire process of how a book gets created. Doing this works was really fun, and gives me something to add to my vita, not too bad for a grad student, huh?

I really love the Reader we've edited (more details coming soon) because it works well with all of the themed courses we teach in FYW. I'm teaching an Afracentric (race and ethnicity) FYW course this fall and can even use several of the texts from the Reader. Other people using technology, gender, or class-based themes can also use several of the readings in the Reader. So it works well across sections and themes! Yay! I love ways that promote diversity in curriculum design!

Prof PC

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