Important, useful, used, interesting: Part 4 (and last, I think)

I believe this is the final post–at least for the moment–in this brief series.

It’s probably not obvious, but those last three words have three separate links, not one long link. And, realistically, there’s a fourth post in that series, just without the name.

This is a project–or maybe it’s two projects–that I’ve been thinking about for a while, that I’ve even posted about once or twice. Or maybe even three times, indirectly.

It’s a project that could be published by a traditional publisher, which would make it slower, but would provide cachet–and provide the marketing and publicity that I’m so woefully bad at providing.

And, if done as two books, it’s actually a project that could be useful far outside of librarianship. If, that is, I had any plausible way of reaching people outside librarianship.

Here’s the new working title, for the general part if it’s two parts:

Mostly Numbers: Coping with Everyday Statistics

Here’s the current very rough outline of the project (both parts)–to be written in my most straightforward style with lots of examples and absolutely no equations.

Mostly Numbers: Coping with Everyday Statistics

1.       Introduction

Part 1. Tricky Numbers, Trickier Statistics

2.       Coping with Averages: The Four-Apple Approach

3.       Why Everyday Statistics are Mostly Numbers

Part 2. Problems with Statistics and Graphs

4         Misleading Graphs

5         Misleading Samples: When 30 is Not Enough

6         Exaggerated Exactness

7         When Normal Distribution Doesn’t Work

8         Doing it Right: Transparency and Ethics

9         Fair Presentations and Coping with Outliers

Part 3. The Basics of Real-World Number-Handling

10     The Terms You Need to Know

11     The Other Terms You’ll Encounter

12     The Tests You Can Probably Ignore

13     The Tools I’m Using for This Book

14     Mostly Numbers, Not Really Statistics

15     Beyond Numbers: When You Really Need Statistics

[Librarian’s Extension: Part 4. The Real Complexity of Library Numbers]

16     Public Libraries

17     Academic Libraries

[Librarian’s Extension: Part 5. How-To: Getting the Most out of Public Datasets]

18     Using Excel to Expand Your Public Library Awareness

19     Using Excel to Expand Your Academic Library Awareness


Intended length: <200 pages. If done as two parts, <150 pages for general part, <100 pages for librarian supplement.

To be made available as an ebook (at least PDF, probably Kindle, maybe EPUB) and print book; prices set at $8 above costs.

Important, useful, used, interesting?

I suppose I’m asking for more feedback. Now that I’m learning more about crowdsourcing models, I don’t know that I’m likely to make such a suggestion (and I’ll probably have “on the other hand” posts related to some previous ones soon).

I think the book would be (mildly) important.

I’m 100% certain it would be useful.

I’m 99% certain I can make it interesting.

And I have not an idea in the world whether the potential market–that is, whether it would be used–is:

  • Half a dozen (basically those who’ve already said “what a great idea!”)
  • Sixty (assuming those who’ve already responded are about 10% of the market.
  • Six hundred (see above but 1%)
  • Six thousand (yeah, right).

I suspect the right number–for me, as a self-publisher using Lulu and with my so-called network of professional acquaintances, is somewhere between the second and third bullets. If it’s closer to the second bullet, it’s not worth doing–to do it right will involve a fair amount of effort. If it’s very close to (or below) the third bullet, it may be worth self-publishing (but probably wouldn’t be worthwhile for a “real” publisher).

So: I haven’t entirely given up on the idea. I also haven’t actually started writing it.

Meanwhile, I’m pondering those other situations. And coming to some tentative conclusions. Maybe.

Comments, as always, welcome.



2 Responses to “Important, useful, used, interesting: Part 4 (and last, I think)”

  1. laura says:

    I was pretty down with this until I got to the page count. Also, I expect “Excel” will drive off a lot of people. But 200 pages about statistics is a hard sell.

  2. Walt Crawford says:

    I hear what you’re saying (in both cases). As for “Excel,” I don’t see how I can do a how-to without specifying the tool (and Excel is the most commonly available tool). As for the first…would a 120-page (say) “Mostly Numbers” and a 100-page “How to” be better? (At this point, I wonder whether either one would have an audience of more than dozens without spending marketing money, which would sort of negate the low price…) There are reasons I haven’t made up my mind about this one yet. The gap between “useful” and “likely to be widely used” seems very wide. And while I can show people how to massage NCES/IMLS numbers without learning Access, I don’t know how to do it or whether it’s even possible without using Excel (or possibly LibreOffice).