Not to say I told you so…

but I told you so. (I’ll wait till you get back, and if you need a refresher, look here.) This is sounding more and more like a deal with the devil…

[Edit: link fixed]

Be sure to read the post’s comments. They’re informative and even helpful in a constructive kind of way. More than that, they clearly lay out the new normal: a divide between those who consider an academic historian’s book, you know, scholarship, and those who are looking to maximize sales for course adoption and a $21 price point for the Kindle version.

The market says eliminate the bibliography and the historiography. And if you have three pieces of evidence, you only need to mention one. Because, you know, proving a historical claim only requires a single example, and your readers should just take your word for it anyway.

Academic historians used to call things like historiography, bibliography and evidence their ‘scholarly apparatus’, but now the market seems to be dictating our scholarship as well.

But I’m not just a curmudgeon. I’ll make one constructive suggestion of my own: get rid of the excess citation fluff (which I’d thought publishers forced on us). Seriously, why the f**k do we need to know where a book was published?? When was the last time someone had to hop a steamer to London to pick up a copy? At least the publisher information in the citation tells us whether the cited work is a scholarly one or not, if it’s been published by an academic press. Oh, wait…

(I know, I know. I’m over the word count. I suppose I could eliminate the ellipses…)

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4 responses to “Not to say I told you so…”

  1. V. Padilla says :

    Why not have publishers post the bibliography on the website? After all, many include an excerpt from the book when they send the email announcement-why not add the bib? (Ideally, the bib and footnotes would be in the text). Something like this, http://www.understandingpower.com/index.htm

    • jostwald says :

      That was mentioned by a few of the comments. It’s certainly possible, but might lead to odd things:
      -One commenter noted that presses have already ‘lost’ such webpages, with the Internet barely out of its infancy – I’d imagine further restructuring and mergers would only increase the odds of such mishaps. Even academic institutions lose online things, witness John Lynn’s Guide to EMEMH titles in Midwestern libraries (an earlier post of mine). We all know broken link syndrome.
      -For historians, one of the big advantages of print is that it’s lasting – we’re still looking at books from 100+ years ago. Can we say that about such websites? Libraries and archives have thought long and hard about the skills and funds needed to constantly update digital information when standards change evey few years. I’m still citing 30-year old works (much older actually), so the timeframe should really be open-ended.
      -Will the bib be freely viewable by the public, or will there be some code in the book that allows you access? It’d be great for schoalrs to build up their bibs though…

      These aren’t deal-breakers by any means, but they do indicate how self-contained and fool-proof the codex is.

  2. jostwald says :

    BTW, I’d initially posted the wrong link to Historiann’s post, but it’s fixed now.

  3. Erik Lund says :

    I still have the first book I bought with an online biography. Clay Blair’s Hitler’s U-Boat Wars, Vol 1. [Random House, 1996]. Celebrated at the time, it became retrospectively controversial when the second volume built on the first to brutally reject the established historiography of the Battle of the Atlantic. Focussing on the disjointed character of the second volume, it was easy to dismiss it as the product of a senescent mind. Yet the groundwork for Blair’s rejection of the historiography was clearly laid in the introduction to the first.

    Needless to say, the online bibliography has long since vanished, and the traditional historiography roles onward into the misty future.

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