Acquisitions

Hamish Blair. 1957. Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood & Sons, 1930. Something a bit different -- an air control novel, instead of a knock-out blow one; India ablaze instead of London. As the dust-jacket ominously says, '1857: Indian Mutiny. 1957: ?' Luckily 1947 came first.

John Ramsden. Don't Mention the War: The British and the Germans since 1890. London: Little, Brown, 2006. It was all downhill after Three Men on the Bummel ... I love the title, and it looks like an insightful book on an important topic; but what's with having the endnotes not in the book itself but on a website? Do they think websites are permanent? Will the 10 pages omitted from the book really improve its profitability by that much? It's better than none at all, I suppose, but it does potentially diminish the book's useability for research purposes, now and in the future. For shame, Little, Brown, for shame.

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5 thoughts on “Acquisitions

  1. I've chatted to John about it. He said his choice was footnotes in book, and one fewer chapter, or footnotes on website, and one more chapter and keep it buyable. His argument was that anyone who was really bothered about footnotes could print them off. He's had three complaints so far (all from grad students), and one review which didn't bother to check that you could actually get the notes online.

  2. Brett Holman

    Post author

    He can add another complaint from a grad student :P

    Seriously, on those terms it was absolutely the right decision -- I'd rather have the extra chapter. But it's easy to imagine situations where this is going to diminish the usefulness of the book. For example, what about a copy sitting in a university library somewhere, 3 or 5 years from now when the publishers have stopped maintaining the website (the domainname is only paid for up until 27 February 2008), and a student wants to find what sources were used? Bad luck -- they should have had the foresight to have known back in 2006 that they were going to need the endnotes in 2011 ...

    Well, it's not a perfect world, and compromises have to be made sometimes. I can live with this for books which straddle the borderline between academic and popular, and if publishers want to tip the balance towards the latter I can't really blame them. And I must admit that even though I don't often buy history books without the full scholarly apparatus, in this case I did precisely because I noticed that the endnotes were available on the web -- so the trade-off worked for Little, Brown in this particular case.

    But I would hate to see this become a more general trend. Can you imagine what it would be like if you had to go ferretting about on the web for the endnotes for every book you consulted, or rummaging through your hard drive or filing system for the version you downloaded 3 years ago? No thanks!

  3. More than that, what about the academic pleasure which is the carefully constructed acerbic footnote? John told me that he stopped putting things into the footnotes which should either be in the text or not in the book years ago, but I still like the idea of the odd barbed comment tucked away.

  4. Brett Holman

    Post author

    Yeah! I'm a fan of "substantive" footnotes in general, and if they are a little snarky, so much the better ...

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