More Appropriate As An E-Book?

Today I received in the mail a copy of Ulysses S. Grant: A Bibliography compiled by Marie E. Kelsey (Praeger, 2005), which I will review for H-Net.  The book is 475 pages and contains 4,242 entries, which are broken down into various categories.  At first glance it looks to be a fairly comprehensive list of everything published about Grant.  Kelsey provides a short overview of Grant’s life as well as the organization of the entries.  To be honest, I have no idea as to how I will go about reviewing this book.

The book is clearly a valuable reference tool for those researching Grant’s life, but what I find curious is its publication in the traditional print format.  It seems to me that an online publication would make better sense.  My guess is that college and university libraries will purchase the book, but given the developments of online publishing it seems hard to justify a print format when so many more people could access the immense amount of work that went into this online.  Of course, there is the question of the terms of public access, but that is no longer a barrier to the online approach.  At this point I am not calling for a radical shifting from print to online or e-book format, but in regard to certain types of published works it does seem like a no-brainer.

Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth

“Levin’s study is the first of its kind to blueprint and then debunk the mythology of enslaved African Americans who allegedly served voluntarily in behalf of the Confederacy.”–Journal of Southern History

Purchase your copy today!

9 comments… add one
  • Kevin Levin Aug 7, 2007 @ 17:43

    Thanks everyone for the suggestions. I think this is in fact a great opportunity to make some of these points regarding online publication.

    • Marie Kelsey Oct 13, 2011 @ 4:56

      I wrote this book and this is the first time I’ve seen these reviews! Thank you all for the kind comments and I am so excited to see that you believe this book would be better as an ebook. I could not agree more and am casting about right now for an opportunity to do this. I’d like to bring the bibliography up to date and publish it electronically, but am not sure what my options are to do so. Will have to wait until the end of this academic year when I retire!! And have time for fun things like this bibliography. Thank you all again! Marie

  • Clio Bluestocking Aug 7, 2007 @ 17:28

    Sounds like you have a focus for the review: discuss the merit of the material, but the problems with the format in the age of wikis and other means of electronic publications that can be frequently updated.

    Glad they got you to review it!

  • Rebecca Aug 7, 2007 @ 16:09

    Any kind of electronic format would also make it more easily updatable–which should be the goal of these bibliographical projects.

  • Brooks Simpson Aug 7, 2007 @ 13:19

    A long time ago I had been signed to compile this bibliography. The series’ need for comprehensiveness proved daunting, even for me, because inevitably one will miss something that someone else will know about (and cite as evidence of your own incompetence). So eventually I backed out.

    had this been a project that one could build online, with library subscriptions, requests for additional information, and so on, the project would have been much more doable, in part because it would have been easy to wrestle with issues of additional information and keeping the resource up-to-date. Few libraries will be able to afford this volume, and only the occasional individual.

    Marie Kelsey is a hard-working researcher, so the project was placed in good hands.

  • Kevin Levin Aug 7, 2007 @ 6:27

    Ethan, — Thanks for passing along the review.

    Larry, — I agree!

  • Larry Cebula Aug 7, 2007 @ 1:06

    Better than an E-Book, this should be a wiki so it can be kept up-to-date.

  • Esrafuse Aug 6, 2007 @ 16:57

    I was assigned to review this over a for Military Review, but for some reason it seems the review will never appear (probably because it is not recent enough history), so, if it will help, here it is:

    Ulysses S. Grant: A Bibliography, Marie Ellen Kelsey, Praeger, Westport, CT 2005, xxxix, 475, $119.95 (cloth). Reviewed by Ethan S. Rafuse, Associate Professor of Military History, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

    In his humorous and decidedly irreverent spoof of the Civil War Centennial, Will Success Spoil Jeff Davis?, historian Thomas L. Connelly remarked that Ulysses S. Grant was probably the most rediscovered figure in American history. In the decades since Connelly made this comment, the impulse to “rediscover” Grant has remained a powerful force in Civil War literature, with several full biographies, and a slew of works examining particular aspects of the general’s life and career, appearing in just the past decade. Indeed, one of more curious aspects of modern Civil War historiography is the fact that there are still writers who believe that Grant’s reputation needs rehabilitation, when in fact serious students of history who agree with the notion, propagated during the late nineteenth century by the Lost Cause school of Civil War history, that Grant was a drunk and incompetent “butcher” who only achieved success on the battlefield through superior numbers are few and far between.
    In Ulysses S. Grant: A Bibliography, Marie Ellen Kelsey compiles an impressively comprehensive list of over 4,200 sources, from manuscript collections to books and articles to videos, available to individuals with an interest in General Grant. For all but a few entries, Kelsey provides brief one to two sentence descriptions that are useful and interesting. She also provides an effective introduction to the volume consisting of a brief survey of Grant’s life and public career that includes some observations on current scholarship, and a chronology of the major events of Grant’s life. The table of contents and list of the sources are effectively and logically laid out, making it easy for someone looking for works on particular topics, such as the Battle of Shiloh or the Santo Domingo imbroglio, to quickly find what he or she is looking for.
    The nature of this volume, and its fairly hefty cover price, will make it of limited use or appeal to the typical reader of Military Review. Nonetheless, it deserves, and should find, a place in libraries that serve the legion of researchers in Civil War history whose avid interest in Grant seems unlikely to diminish any time soon.

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