Some Updates from The Digital Press

For the first time in the history of The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota, I have multiple books in multiple stages of production. It would be pretty intense if I didn’t have a great group of collaborators helping to keep all the balls in the air. The magic of a cooperative press is that many hands make light work. 

The project that I’m most immediately invested in at present is preparing the publication of an excavation manual. As several of my trusted advisors have pointed out to me, publishing an excavation manual is not something that happens very frequently. Usually, manuals are in-house documents circulated on a project to maintain consistency and rigor and, if they are made available to the public, it is without the trappings of formal publication. This is a fine and practical approach to making a project’s methodological assumptions available to the people most deeply involved in work, but it falls short of the level of disciplinary transparency that archaeology has come to embrace in recent decades. Certain, particularly thorough, manuals deserve publication as benchmarks against which changes in the field can be measured. 

In any event, publishing a field manual is tricky for lots of technical reasons. First and foremost, there is a demand for legibility both in paper and digital formats. I image this kind of document being read on phones, tablets, and in ratty paper copies strewn about workrooms. I decided to set the book in Lucida Bright at 10 points with headings being san serif Lucida Sans. Technical terms that refer to specific fields in databases or on various forms are in Lucida Small Caps. The font is BIG for clarity and the margins are generous to accommodate sweaty and dirty hands and notes. They also allow for me to put section numbers in the margins to allow a reader to find a reference section quickly without flipping back and forth to find where one is in the book.

CEM 3 12 1 01

CEM 3 12 2 01

The fussiest part about this kind of publication are the various illustrations and tables and the absence of long text blocks. I’ve been struggling to balance the need for variation in font sizes. Below is a draft of a very busy page. I’m not sure that I have it all right, but I think it’s headed in the right direction.

CEM 6 1

 As per usual, feedback of any kind is much appreciated.

As for the other two projects at The Press right now, I’ve blogged about one before. This is Micah Bloom’s Codex. You can get to know this project here. Right now we have eight short, but incisive essays in copy editing and two more on the way. The book design is being handled by Micah Bloom himself and some students at Minot State University, and I’ve been told its well underway. This project is complicated because rather than being just one book, it’s actually three. An archival, color, print copy, reproduced at a very high level and for very limited circulation, a free digital download, and a trade paperback which will be different from the color print copy but a more affordable and accessible way to get into the wondrous world of Codex.

Codex covers i copy

Codex cover digital press no micah

The final project is perhaps the most exciting and the most rapidly approaching (like a run-away freight train!). As local readers of this blog know, this year marks the 20th anniversary of the catastrophic Red River flood of 1997. This flood wrecked Grand Forks and prior to Hurricane Katrina required the largest peace-time evacuation in U.S. history. The memories of the flood remains quite vivid and raw for many in the community, and, despite the resurgence of Grand Forks in the two decades since the water retreated, there remains an ambivalence about the memory of the flood. This year a group of advanced students in the writing, editing, and publishing program here at UND have been putting together a book that brings new material and documents together about the flood under the guidance of David Haeselin. Dave and his students are doing great work so far and we’re looking forward to presenting a teaser for the book early in April.

In the meantime, I’ll put up a couple of cover mock ups and provisional titles just to keep you curious:

 

Haunted by Waters

 

Reflection on High Water 2

NVAP II: Landscape Archaeology and the Medieval Countryside

It was pretty exciting to read through one of the most eagerly await archaeological volumes of the last decade, Effie Athanassopoulos’s Nemea Valley Archaeological Project II: Landscape Archaeology and the Medieval Countryside (2016) published by the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. The book is impeccably produced with lots of color, glossy pages, well-set and proofed texts, meticulous detail, and fine illustrations, maintaining the ASCSA’s standing as the most consistently elegant of the major archaeological publishers. 

The book itself is a hybrid, bridging the gap between the great second wave survey projects in Greece and more mature, contemporary attitudes to landscape and intensive pedestrian survey. Traditionally, intensive surveys in Greece are published in one of two ways: a series of articles dedicated to methods and particular periods or in a single, massive tome which approach the landscape in a diachronic way through various methods. Effie’s book is a single volume dedicated to the Medieval period from an intensive survey, and in this way is rather unique (or at very least comparable to F. Zarinebaf, J. Bennet, and J. L. Davis. 2005. A Historical and Economic Geography of Ottoman Greece: The Southwestern Morea in the 18th Century (2005)). Moreover, unlike Zarinebaf, Bennet, and Davis, NVAP II is strictly archaeological with only very cursory references to texts.

After an introduction of less than 60 pages, most of the book is dedicated to the intensive documentation of individual sites. This includes large and important 12th-13th century settlement site called “Site 600″ or Iraklio/Medieval or Turkish Fountain which extended over 34 ha and produced nearly 1000 potentially Medieval sherds as well as much smaller sites sometimes producing little more than a handful of Medieval fineware sherds. A number of the sites are associated with standing churches with a number of them (e.g. Site 501 and Site 509) also preserving evidence for agricultural production. What is interesting is that these sites are presented as from a survey archaeologists’ perspective with survey unit illustrations, ceramics, and brief descriptions that make almost no reference to standing architecture. In this way, Effie’s book differs from, say, Christopher Mee and Hamish Forbes’ Methana survey volume where significant attention was given to churches as architectural objects that stood apart – to some extent – from artifact level survey work. The significance of this approach in NVAP II is that it marks a shift in emphasis for Medieval archaeology in Greece away from its traditional focus on ecclesiastical architecture and toward the more mundane world of settlement. In this way, this book manifests a kind of confidence in the work of the survey and landscape archaeology which sets its own priorities and agenda without deferring too much to the past practice. 

That being said the majority of this volume is a well-presented site catalogue. This reflects in some ways the priorities of second-wave survey projects in Greece which were feeling their way forward from traditional gazetteers produced through extensive survey toward artifact level and distributional analysis. The greatest shortcoming of the book is the lack of distributional perspective that brings together the landscape of the Nemea Valley project into a single, methodologically integrated whole. While early articles from NVAP have stood as a significant contributions to the development of intensive pedestrian survey methods, this volume does not seem to return to methodology in a substantial way. This probably speaks the maturity of intensive survey in that not every presentation of survey results need be detailed treatment of methods and procedures. At the same time, I wonder whether some attention to methods might have given this book a broader relevance to current conversations about intensive survey. For example, the visibility of certain types of Medieval pottery, almost certainly shaped the kinds of landscapes that intensive survey recognized. Site size has prompted extensive methodological reflection over the past four decades and relates directly to how we understand function in the landscape. Geomorphology, routes and paths, micro-regional variations in climate, vegetation, and soils, all have shaped the distribution of artifact, settlements, and ultimately people across historical landscapes. So as much as this book reflects the growing confidence and autonomy of intensive survey as a mode for understanding the landscape, it also reflects an earlier tradition of site-based documentation with lavish catalogues, site maps, and illustrations. 

In both ways, it represents a significant contribution to the field.

Three Things Wednesday

I’ve been writing a bit frantically lately, and this morning, I don’t really feel it. So instead of some (in)coherent blogpost rant, I’ll offer three quick things that occupied my mind on my drive to campus this morning.

Forty Book February

This month was the first month in the history of The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota that we sold 40 books (actually 41)! Selling paper books has always been a rather small part of what I do at The Digital Press, but as recent, middling figures for the sale for ebooks have shown, people love paper. (That being said, downloads of our books outpaced sales by about 10:1).

The strong February sales were driven in part by Eric Burin’s edited volume, Picking the President: Understanding the Electoral College, but almost every book in our catalogue got some love this month. 

What is more interesting (at least to me) is that Visions of Substance: 3D Imaging in Mediterranean Archaeology edited by myself and Brandon Olson is the only book that did not sell a copy, despite being the most widely cited book in The Digital Press catalogue with close to 10 citations in a wide range of books and journals (Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, Antiquity, Journal of Field Archaeology, Studies in Ancient Art and Civilization). I suspect the price ($24) has something to do with it and this was an unavoidable consequence of the color printing. Maybe the topic of the book, which was meant to capture a particular moment in time, made the book easily dated?

Immigrants and Emerson 

Here in the Northland, we’ve heard an alarming number of stories about immigrants crossing the rural border between the U.S. and Canada out of fear of deportation. Crossing the border by foot in the winter has cost some of these individuals fingers and toes and nearly their lives. This terrifying new reality has put a profoundly human and local face on the global refugee crisis and got me and my colleagues, Richard Rothaus and Kostis Kourelis, thinking about whether an archaeology of these crossings could help us (and our communities) understand what we need to do to help people so desperate and afraid that they’d risk their lives to be free. Taking a page from Jason De León’s Undocumented Migration Project and our own experience working on the archaeology of the contemporary world, we’ve just begun to imagine ways in which we could realize an archaeology of care here in North Dakota.

We don’t have plans yet and recognize the need for collaboration on both sides of the border and the time and space to develop a thoughtful, humane, and systematic approach to the local side of a global problem. I’m looking forward to the forthcoming forum in the Journal of Contemporary Archaeology that will help frame archaeology’s role in the ongoing crisis.

Threshold Concepts

The next big thing in pedagogy (at least here in North Dakota) seems to be threshold concepts. While I won’t pretend to understand the theoretical or conceptual underpinnings of the idea, it seems to have something to with the idea or concept in a class (or even a discipline) that pushes a student from superficial bafflement to deep understanding. I like the idea because it so neatly describes the breakthrough point that most of us have experienced when studying, say, an language or a particularly tricky text that allows us almost suddenly to wrap our heads around what an author or even a culture is saying. The idea behind threshold concepts, from what I gather, is to recognize and foreground the understanding that creates this breakthrough experience.

A colleague got me thinking about the threshold concepts for history and how students think about arguments, facts, evidence, and theory. For many – even some of our M.A. students – history is about combining “facts” into arguments. This is a fine basic understanding, but runs the risk of essentializing historical evidence as static facts and viewing arguments as self-contained entities that do not rely on larger (and more complex) standards for their validity. After all, an argument is only as good within a particular regime of authority, style, discourse, and even political standing. 

Announcing the Digital Edition of Pyla-Koutsopetria 1: A Free Download

Over the past three years, I’ve been working with the good folks at the American Schools of Oriental Research (especially on the Committee on Publications) and Sarah and Eric Kansa at Open Context to produce a linked, digital version of our 2014 book in the ASOR Archaeological Report Series, Pyla-Koutsopetria I: Archaeological Survey of an Ancient Coast Town that I edited with my friends David Pettegrew and R. Scott Moore. 

Here’s a link to download the book. All you have to do is to become a friend of ASOR which free. Do it! 

Scott Moore and I worked to insert hundreds of links throughout the book to our data which we published on Open Context at about the same time as the book appeared. These links are permanent, persistent, and unique which is super cool. This allows a reader to “drill down” into our data. I blogged about this a couple of weeks ago, but I’ll expand some of the main points here This is good for our data and for our readers for a few reasons:

1. Every Sherd. Ok, well, not technically EVERY sherd, since we did group identical artifacts together into batches. But since the batch is the smallest level of archaeological analysis for our project, a reader can look at exactly those sherds that led to to make a particular argument. Here is a sample of the batch table, and here’s a link to a Roman period kitchen ware rim.

2. Every Unit. Our batches coincide with units which is the smallest spatial division of our survey area. Over the last couple of years Open Context has become much slicker in dealing with spaces in a survey project. So it’s now possible to attach particular batches of artifacts to particular spaces or to query particular places for the artifacts present there. Here’s Unit 39, and here’s Batch 29 (a Late Roman 1 Amphora handle).

3. Every Type. We organized our artifacts using the Chronotype system which provides a local typology for each artifact recovered during the survey. This typology can be extraordinarily broad (for example, a Medium Coarse Ware, Ancient History which is a sherd datable only to the historical period (i.e. 700 BC – Today) with a medium coarse fabric)  or rather more narrow (like a Late Roman 1 type amphora). These can then be viewed across the units in the survey area.

This kind of linked archaeological publication, however, is just the start. There are a few things that a future model for this kind of publication could do.

1. Links from Data to the Book. At present, it is easy and useful to drill down from the rather traditional archaeological monograph into the data. It is not possible, right now, to drill up (?) from the data to our arguments. 

2. Beyond the Book. There are also precious few opportunities (yet!) to go from our work and Chronotype typologies into other bodies of published data. One low hanging fruit would be the Levantine Ceramics Project data which could be linked to our PKAP finds data to expand both datasets. As we look ahead to publishing data from the excavation at Pyla-Koutsopetria and Pyla-Vigla, we hope to be able to link to both our survey and excavation datasets in a born digital publication.

3. Better Digital Circulation. Right now, this is a trial balloon designed to show what is possible leveraging existing platforms and a little DIY elbow-grease (like, inserting a bajillion links!). In the future, we need to look toward a better way to circulate the digital manuscript and to ensure it’s stability and persistence. Obviously, the friction of having to add your email and join a list is not terribly great, but it remains a barrier to access. More significantly, ASOR’s Archaeological Report Series does not have a standard way to distribute digital content and to make it discoverable on the web, and this makes sense, since this is a proof-of-concept type project, but in the future, we hope for a more robust method to make digital publications available from ASOR with as low a barrier to entry as possible!

Anyway, these are all exciting prospects for digitally publishing of archaeological data and reckon that this is a great way to celebrate “Love Your Data Week 2017

ARS 21  PKAP Linked SM Page 003

A Short Introduction to the Digital Edition of Pyla-Koutsopetria I: Archaeological Survey of an Ancient Coastal Town

Over the last few days, I’ve been messing around with the wording of the introduction to a provisional digital version of the first volume of our Pyla-Koutsopetria series in the American Schools of Oriental Research Archaeological Report Series.

It’s a kind of writing that I find challenging to do for lots of reasons. It has to be concise, it has to convey some complicated concepts in a way that invites people to explore a text, and it has to recognize and articulate the limits to our work. This is what I came up with (and stay tuned for the release of this linked book):

We are very pleased to release a digital version of Pyla-Koutsopetria I: Archaeological Survey of an Ancient Coastal Town (2014). We have modified this copy of the manuscript to include links to the archaeological data produced from 2003-2011 during almost a decade of intensive pedestrian survey and study by the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project (PKAP). We have published our data with the Open Context platform where it underwent basic review by the managing editor. By integrating PKAP field and study data with Pyla-Koutsopetria I, the reader can now “drill down” into the data through hyperlinked text in a pdf version of the book. These links allow the reader to view the various digital archaeological “objects” that form the basis for the arguments advanced in this book. These digital archaeological objects range from individual survey units with attendant descriptive data to individual artifacts or batches of artifacts. We have also linked to the various categories of artifacts in our typology. These followed the chronotype system which both informed our sampling strategy in the survey and how we described our finds. We assigned a type to each artifact based on the chronotype naming conventions. These conventions combined a fabric or form with a period and could range from the exceedingly broad – like Medium Coarse Ware dating to the Ancient Historic period (750 BC- AD 749) – to much more narrowly defined and specific categories like African Red Slip Form 99. We have also linked to the various chronological periods assigned on the basis of the chronotype system which guided much of our analysis of artifact distribution in this book.

It is important to stress that this is a provisional document. In some ways, the book reflects the retrofitting of a traditional, analogue text with a layer (literally as well as figuratively) of links to our published digital material. As a result, we did not consider whether the data present in Open Context could be easily arranged by the user to replicate the analyses underpinning this analogue volume. For example, in the book, we organized our data spatially into zones which reflected both practical and archaeological divisions in our survey area. We have not arranged our data in Open Context in such a way that it is easy to query a zone for particular types of artifacts. In future projects, digital data and description will be more closely coordinated allowing the reader to explore the textual arguments more fully while still preserving the granularity of the original archaeological data. 

More on Digital and Paper Picking the President

I spent a little time this weekend doing some finishing touches on the paper version of the most recent book from The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota: Picking the President: Understanding the Electoral College edited by Eric Burin. With any luck, the paper version of the book should be out by the end of the week.

As readers of this blog know, Picking the President was produced very quickly and as a result, some little infelicities slipped through our editing. Over the past week we were able to tidy up the text and have released an updated version here: Picking the President (v1.2).

We also created offprints of each contribution to make the text just a bit more accessible useful in the classroom where you might want to assign, for example, Eric Burin’s introduction and Allen Guelzo and James H. Hulme’s article arguing for the ongoing importance of the Electoral College. We also made the “Documents” section available as a stand alone download.

So far, we are pleased with the number of downloads of the book with over 170 in its first week. While this is probably not quite enough to secure a major motion picture deal or an eager international translator, we expect book downloads to have a tail over the next 18 months if for no other reason than debates about the Electoral College are a bit evergreen. 

We’re also interested in experimenting a bit with ways to generate digital conversation around this (and other) book projects from the Digital Press. I served on the North Dakota Humanities Council board for nearly 5 years, and we regularly discussed whether digital projects were truly interactive. Those of you know the NDHC recognize that they tend to favor face-to-face events – book clubs, lectures, workshops and the like – to publishing or digital projects arguing that their primary goal is to stimulate conversation. That’s fair enough, I think, but it also pushed me to think about how to make a book or a webpage more interactive.

On Friday I had an intriguing meeting with some of the folks from Hypothes.is. Hypothes.is is an application that allows you to comment and mark up anything on the web including pdf files. You have to create a free account to use Hypothes.is, but that’s relatively painless. Once you get an account, you can join the conversation by using either a Google Chrome browser plug-in or going to a designated link that allows Hypothes.is to run natively in your web browser.

So, I’ve opened up my contribution to the Picking the President book for commenting here and added a “comment” link on the Picking the President download page (although anyone could have done the same thing by dropping the link to the pdf download into the little box on the Hypothesis webpage). I’d love to get some feedback on my paper.

For something perhaps a bit more fun for long-time readers of this blog, I’ve also created an annotatable version of my “Slow Archaeology” article in Mobilizing the Past.

The good thing about Hypothes.is is that it’s easy to use and pretty fun. It allows for comments on both the page level and for comments tied to specific passages in the text as well as highlighting that can be seen by anyone who either visits the page or has the Hypothes.is plug-in installed in their browser. It allows for private groups, which would make it appealing for a teaching environment where a class would mark up a text. I’ve already floated the idea to Eric Burin, the editor of Picking the President, that maybe he could set up a Hypthes.is group for his class and they could comment on the book.

I also have a simmering project where we imagine using a private Hypthes.is group to produce an annotated version of a book. We would then collate these annotations into an expanded edition that we’d publish both as a digital book and print-on-demand. In other words, we’d take the annotations and make it part of the “permanent record” of the book. This fits into some of the ideas that Andrew Reinhard and I bandied about in our article in Internet Archaeology last year: “From Blogs to Books: Blogging as Community, Practice, and Platform.” In this article, we envisioned publishing as not a separate species of work from blogging or even social media posts, but as a part of the same continuum that begins with professional conversations at (say) an academic meeting and (one fork at least) culminates in traditional publishing. By opening up the final “published” product to annotation and comment we both leverage digital technologies to take the book beyond the limits of the page but also look back to the earliest days of publishing when printed books circulated within far more circumscribed communities and were often reprinted to reflect the conversations and annotations offered within the communities. 

So please check out my experiments with more interactive publishing. More important than that, though, let me know what you think about my contribution to Picking the President and the most recent version of “Slow Archaeology”

More on Picking the President

The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota’s most recent book, Picking the President: Understanding the Electoral College edited by Eric Burin is getting some positive attention both around campus and in the local media. 

If you haven’t downloaded the book, do it today! 

Check out Eric Burin’s interview with Prairie Public Radio’s Main Street here.

Our friend Jack Russel Weinstein has posted it to his blog, PQED, which I’m sure gets far more readers than this little outfit!

The book and some brilliant words from me and Eric also appeared today in the local campus outlet UNDToday. 

This weekend, I’ll get it all set for paper publication and with any luck it’ll be available on Amazon by the end of the month.

Announcing Picking the President

It is my pleasure to announce the publication of Picking the President: Understanding the Electoral College edited by Eric Burin by The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota.

This The Digital Press’s first effort at a “quick book” that draws together essay from over a dozen authors on the Electoral College. Some were published before and some were written for this book. We combined these essays with historical documents and hope that they provide a platform for thoughtful engagement. The entire project took less than a month from start to finish owing largely to the hard work of my colleague and the book’s editor Eric Burin and the willingness of the contributors to move quickly over the winter break! It was a real rush to get the entire book together this quickly and aside from a few little glitches – like the first page of the table of contents on an even numbered page (which will be ironed out before the book is printed on paper). 

We also collaborated with North Dakota Quarterly to extend the reach of the Digital Press to new readers and a new audience, pushing the book out late yesterday afternoon on the NDQ website

Finally, working on this book was such a welcome respite from winter writing grind. I’ve spent the last few weeks hacking through a long term writing project, and the rush of producing a book in a deeply collaborative way was exactly the tonic that saved me from a total implosion into my own mind. 

Picking the President Cover

Here’s the blurb:

Picking the President: Understanding the Electoral College. Edited by Eric Burin

The 2016 presidential election has sparked an unprecedented interest in the Electoral College. In response to Donald Trump winning the presidency despite losing the popular vote, numerous individuals have weighed in with letters-to-the-editor, op-eds, blog posts, videos, and the like, and thanks to the revolution in digital communications, these items have reached an exceptionally wide audience. In short, never before have so many people had so much to say about the Electoral College.

To facilitate and expand the conversation, Picking the President: Understanding the Electoral College offers brief essays that examine the Electoral College from different disciplinary perspectives, including philosophy, mathematics, political science, history, and pedagogy. Along the way, the essays address a variety of questions about the Electoral College: Why was it created? How has it changed over time? Who benefits from it? Is it just? How will future demographic patterns affect it? Should we alter or abolish the Electoral College, and if so, what should replace it? In exploring these matters, Picking the President enhances our understanding of one of America’s most high-profile, momentous issues.

With contributions by Eric Burin, Brad Austin, Bill Caraher, Allen C. Guelzo and James H. Hulme, Mark Stephen Jendrysik, Donald F. Johnson, Benjamin J. Kassow, Andrew Meyer, Cynthia Culver Prescott, Timothy Prescott, Patrick Rael, Andrew Shankman, Manisha Sinha, Mark Trahant, and Jack Weinstein.

~

As you all know, the Digital Press relies on friends and supporters to get our books into the hands of interested readers. We think this book brings together over a dozen short essays and significant historical document in an effort to understand in a more nuanced way the history and arguments for and against the Electoral College in the immediate context of the 2016 presidential election. We also hope that this book will find its way into classrooms both on campus and beyond. It’s concise form, open access status, perspective and provocative essays, and the inclusion of historical documents make a platform for informed discussion.

Here’s a link to the book: https://thedigitalpress.org/picking-the-president/

Here’s (my version of the) official press release for the book:

Announcing the Newest Title from The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota:
Picking the President: Understanding the Electoral College. Edited by Eric Burin. 

No matter where one stands in American politics, the 2016 presidential elections were momentous. After a long and contentious campaign, it seemed somehow fitting that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote and Donald Trump won the electoral vote. This touched off another round in the long running debate over the role of the Electoral College in American presidential elections.

The wide range of views on the Electoral College in the state and national media prompted Prof. Eric Burin of the Department of History to team up with North Dakota Quarterly and the Digital Press at the University of North Dakota to publish Picking the President: Understanding the Electoral College. This volume brings together scholars from across campus, the state, and the US to discuss the history and the future of the Electoral College.

For Prof. Burin, “the Electoral College may be the most momentous and contentious feature of American life. It determines who will be president, the most powerful office in the world. The stakes couldn’t be higher.  That’s why people feel so strongly about it.  That’s also why we need to study it so carefully.”

While all the contributors prepared their essays in the immediate aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, their perspectives span from the world of antiquity to Early Modern Europe, 19th century America, and the present day. Drawing on disciplines as diverse as math, philosophy, communications, and political science, Burin notes: “Picking the President aims to enrich the public conservation about the Electoral College. The book’s collection of brief, engaging, and insightful essays are not intended to be the final word on the Electoral College. Rather, the goal is to make our discussions on the subject even more wide-ranging, thoughtful, and rewarding.”

The book also includes a series of important documents in the history of the Electoral College including both well-known texts like Article II of the U.S. Constitution which established the Electoral College and documents that might be less familiar to the general public like James Madison’s correspondence with John Hillhouse and George Hay on the issue.

The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota leverages a new ecosystem of digital publishing tools, social media distribution, and print-on-demand printing to produce high quality digital publication.  These digital tools allow the Digital Press to bringing together scholars from campus, the state, and the nation to engage thoughtfully in a conversation of immediate relevance. Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Debbie Storrs remarks: “The scholars in this volume represent multiple perspectives and demonstrate in their responsiveness and urgency an innovative deployment, made possible by digital technology and committed scholarship, of disciplinary expertise to engage public discussion, democracy and citizenship. The continued relevance of the liberal arts is revealed in the thoughtful analysis of the Electoral College by scholars.”

The book is available as a free download here.

And will be available at the end of the month as a low-cost paperback on Amazon.com.

 

 

 

Another Book by its Cover

This week I’ve spent some of my free thinking about the cover for The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota’s newest book: Picking the President: Understanding the Electoral College edited by Eric Burin. In most cases I fuss with book covers and chat with more designer-ly friends or even contract with someone to produce it. Since Picking the President is a “quick book” designed to provoke questions, conversation, and debate about the electoral college in light of the recent presidential election, I don’t really have the luxury of a protracted design process (nor do I feel pushing someone to produce a cover quickly over the holidays is a very nice thing to do). So, I’m doing this on my own! 

I wanted to do two things in my cover design. First, I wanted to use blue and red which are colors now closely associated with the Democratic and Republican parties. Second, I wanted to use an old style font evocative of that used on such 18th century publication. I really like the font Caslon (and its slightly weightier modern variants) because they were historically common and remain recognizable as “olde tyme” fonts.

My first effort set the works “Picking the President” against an outline of the U.S. and bands of blue and red. 

EC Project Cover 01

This cover is decent, I guess, although I thought the text was hard to read against the blue so I made the blue and red a bit opaque. Unfortunately that made the colors look faded and a bit like a bad color photocopy. And the bands of red and blue look a bit like the French flag. The font is Didot which is fine, but a bit contemporary for what I was after.

I messed with a few other designs with more and with less color and finally figured out what the outline of the U.S. needed. It needed a flag!

EC Project Cover2 2 01

I like the Caslon font on this cover too, although I’m never entirely happy with how “P”s work with small caps. There is always some kind of kerning issue. That being said, I think this works a good bit better both in terms of legibility and style. Barring an overwhelming desire to mess with this more or I get some good suggestions from readers!

Picking the President: Understanding the Electoral College

One of the real benefits of the collaborative and cooperative publishing model at The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota is that ideas can mature very quickly because the author and the production team work together to frame the project. Last week, my colleague Eric Burin approached me with an idea for a short and quick book on the Electoral College. The goal was for us to prepare a slim volume and have it available by the inauguration.

The book would feature essays the both consider the current utility and significance of the Electoral College and its historical roots in both the early American Republic and its historical inspirations and predecessors. Fueled by the good will and enthusiasm of our contributors, we are now ready to announce the forthcoming publication of Picking the President: Understanding the Electoral College.

The book will feature contributions by Eric Burin, Brad Austin, Bill Caraher, Mark Jendrysik, Don Johnson, Benjamin Kassow, Timothy Prescott, Patrick Rael, Andrew Shankman, Mark Trahan, and Jack Weinstein.

To whet your appetite, Eric Burin has prepared a little book trailer for us here.

Here’s our quickly produced and provisional cover. As per usual design tips and suggestions are always appreciated! 

EC Project Cover 01