This is a story in the “when life hands you lemons, make lemonade… ” category.
After we experienced some hardware issues with the Charlie file server, some of the older websites that were published under www4.hmc.edu went offline. The new version of Charlie did not provide the file system needed by the www4 server, which had been limping along for some time. So we quickly began to explore ways to host those pages. The inimitable Mitch Shacklett (Director, Systems and Network) came up with a great way to do this, by making a subset of your folders on Charlie visible on the web. He promises that we will soon have a way to password protect pages being offered in this way too.
One of the people affected by this was Tad Beckman, Professor Emeritus in the Humanities, Social Sciences and the Arts Department. Tad had a collection of pages that included some essays and lecture notes that were referred to by many people around the internet. Together we looked at a variety of options to publish this material in a more permanent format. In the end, Tad found a very interesting solution: he published five eBooks on Amazon’s Kindle Store. I was intrigued by this idea, and asked Tad a few questions by email:
How did you discover that you could publish on Amazon’s kindle store?
I Google searched self-publishing and Kindle Direct Publishing was one of the sites that came up.
Why did the Claremont library not want to take your material?
The Claremont Digital Library program seems to be only for faculty works that have already been published somewhere. I was dealing with course notes and unpublished materials.
To whom would the material be of interest?
All of these materials have been on my WebSite from the early 1990s onward. Some were developed for courses I was teaching but others were just pursuing interests of mine. Philosophy students around the country have used my course notes and I’ve had extensive contact with some of them. Students of Native Americans (especially California 4th graders) have used my extensive notes for my freshman course “Indigenous People of the Western US”. I used to interact with parents, students, and teachers quite a bit. In addition, I wrote a whole book about California’s indians (The View from Native California) but failed to finish it when I became department chair for the second time. It wound up on the WebSite. In addition, I put up an article on Martin Heidegger which has been read widely over the internet.
How easy/difficult was it, in your opinion to get this done?
If you already have an Amazon account, it is easy to create an account on Kindle Direct Publishing. If you intend to publish, you can go ahead and fill out the tax-related forms as well. Then you get a “bookshelf” from which you can add new titles. It is very easy to do if you have your material in MS Word format. (I was using Word for MAC 2004 but switched to Word for MAC 2011.) When you add a title, you fill out a longish form with all the vital information — title, subtitle, author, categories, search words, etc. You will do two important things toward the bottom of this form — first, create a cover using their cover-maker (import your own image or leave it without an image) and, second, upload your Word file. After that, you go to a second form where you select a price and authenticate that you have authorship rights. After that, it takes the system about 12 hours to put your book into the store. The book appears on your “bookshelf” and offers several operations that you can perform — like creating an updated version, etc.
What would you say to fellow faculty about your experience with the Amazon system?
Well, I wanted these materials someplace where people could continue to use them and this looks like a good place. It was a very easy process to convert my Web pages into Word format and then coalesce them into a full document. Most of the time went into proofreading, editing, and making additional text so that the final document would be coherent. In about three weeks, I have created five publications. (You can see them by searching “Tad Beckman” on Amazon.com.) I’ve even sold a few!
Any other comments?
Retirement is great!