One book that won’t happen

A while back, I wrote about the experience of rereading the L2 special issue after some time had passed.

In that post, I discussed the possibility of turning that issue and the major followup a few months later into a print-on-demand book: Not altering the text at all, but adding footnotes with full URLs, turning those footnotes into a bibliography, and adding an index.

I got a little positive reaction. As I was recovering from ALA and after putting out the July issue of Cites & Insights, I did the preliminary work needed to do such a book–that is,

  • Took the entire Word text of Cites & Insights Midwinter 2006, the Library 2.0 and “Library 2.0″ issue, and stripped it of the banner, contents, and masthead.
  • Appended the brief followup from February 2006 (pages 1-3).
  • Appended the big followup, Perspective: Finding a Balance: Libraries and Librarians, from July 2006.
  • Switched the template from the C&I template to the “cibooks” template. added a title page and slot for contents, added a brief Foreword, changed second-level headings throughout to be chapter headings, inserted a table of contents and looked at the results briefly.

That really didn’t take long–figure three to five hours total. The results were promising: without footnotes, bibliography and index, it made a book roughly 145 pages long.

So I thought I’d follow through with the long (and incredibly boring) part–which is to say, going through page by page and:

  • Copyfitting to avoid very short last lines of paragraphs and other problems–a process made more difficult because I couldn’t actually change any text.
  • Adding index entries as appropriate.
  • For each quotation, finding the original post or other source and inserting a footnote (and bibliography entry) containing the full URL for the quote.

Once that was done, I’d only need to clean up the index, add a brief Afterword, figure out the spine width, select a photo for the cover, prepare the cover, and upload the whole thing to Lulu. Shazam! Instabook!

But as I started doing the long part, I thought about the essays I could be writing. I thought about this year’s discussion of liblogs. I thought about two book projects, both new material and (I believe) of real service to the field, that I could be starting in on. I thought about how long the process was likely to take–probably at least 50 hours, possibly closer to 100. All on my own time.

And I thought about job progress or lack thereof, and whether I should be putting more time into that.

Finally, I considered the likely sales for this instabook (I’d be surprised if it ever reached three digits) and the possibility that somebody would grump about my “profiting from” essays in which the majority of text was other people’s comments.

For a few days, I was a little stymied on writing a group of essays that will form the core of the August C&I, and the uncreative process of making the book seemed attractive.

Then, on July 4, I broke through the little writing block–and realized that I could spend those 50 to 100 hours a lot more productively working on new projects. Add that it’s extremely unlikely that book sales would yield even minimum wage for the time spent. Add that all of the material in the book is available, free, albeit without precise URLs for source material.

Turned out to be an easy decision. I’ll focus on new material. This particular book won’t happen. Sorry to disappoint the handful of likely purchasers.

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