An American Editor

November 28, 2012

The Holiday Gift: To eBook or to Hardcover?

Increasingly, the reader in the family is reading ebooks and many of us are thinking that an ideal gift for the ebook reader is either an ebook gift certificate or some desired ebooks themselves. In my case, I was thinking about asking for ebooks (as opposed to asking for hardcover books), but then I got to wondering: If I give an ebook as a holiday gift, what message am I sending to the gift recipient?

My off-the-cuff answer is “I love you” or “It’s great that you are my friend” or some similar positive message. But after mulling the matter over for a while, I wonder how positive the message really is. Yes, I know that many readers prefer to read ebooks and that increasingly readers only want to read ebooks. Yet the question arises because this is a message-bearing gift, even if the message is left unsaid.

When I give a reader a hardcover book, I give the reader something they can see constantly. As it sits on the bookshelf, it acts as a reminder that I cared enough to give them a gift. Depending on the book, it may also have a visual presence that is much more than a reminder that the book was a gift (think of a book about paintings, for example). Plus, if given to, for example, a grandchild, I can inscribe the hardcover with something pithy, like “Happy 9th birthday. Love, Grandpa.” The hardcover is a constant reminder that I care. A few years from now, when the grandchild loses all sentimentality and wants to raise some cash to buy the latest video game, the grandchild can sell the hardcover on the used book market and get a few more dollars toward the purchase price — the hardcover gives again.

The hardcover also is returnable and exchangeable. I bought the book that promotes being a carpenter but mommy and daddy want the child to have a book that encourages a career in quantum physics. I think dragons and fairies are great for 8-year-olds; mommy and daddy think a grounding in reality is better.

The ebook, on the other hand, doesn’t really have a presence. It becomes one of hundreds on the reading device; it doesn’t stand out and remind anyone that this was a gift given with love. And let’s face it, the ability to inscribe something pithy in an ebook just doesn’t have that “magic” ring to it. Of course, since I am buying the ebook for someone else, I also have to hope — with all fingers crossed — that the ebook is properly formatted and isn’t riddled with errors. Giving a poorly formatted, error-riddled ebook as a gift is like giving a TV without a remote control — it will work but the recipient will be a bit grumpy about how well it works.

Plus when I give an ebook, what am I really giving? A license that can be revoked on a capricious whim by the seller (consider the recent Fictionwise debacle); a book that can be here today and gone tomorrow because a cloud failed; a book that cannot be exchanged or returned should it turn out to be the wrong book or inappropriate because about midway through it has a steamy erotic scene even though the book has been rated great for 8-year-olds (or, in today’s vitriolic political environment, the book discusses evolution and the parents are creationists).

I suppose the answer is to give an ebook gift card but how impersonal can one get? That is OK for a business associate, but is that what I really want to give my child or grandchild? What thought (and effort) goes into giving a gift card? I think of gift cards as the gifts of last — last resort and last minute — the gift that says I ran out of ideas; I can’t think of anything for you (what message does that send!); I ran out of time to do shopping; I got lazy; and so on. Besides, how memorable (or exciting) is it to receive a gift card? I can’t ever remember dragging a friend to my bedroom to show him the gift I got from Granny when it was a gift card.

I guess I could avoid my dilemma by simply not considering buying books at all as holiday gifts, but as an editor, I’d like to support my industry in hopes that it will continue to provide me a livelihood for years to come, and, more importantly, books are the gateway to knowledge and there is nothing better than spreading knowledge. Additionally, when that remote control race car finally has seen its last days and joins the scrap heap of once-loved toys, the book I give should still be available.

If my child or grandchild is like me, he or she will treasure books they receive and think of holding them for future generations. Few of us do that with the busted light saber we received for last year’s holiday. That’s another positive to hardcover books — they can be passed on to subsequent generations and evoke the same positive emotion in that generation as was evoked when the gift was originally given. They are the gift that can keep on giving.

Yes, the same is true of ebooks. The text file can be given again and again, perhaps for hundreds or thousands of generations to come and each giving will be in pristine form — assuming that 100 years from now there will be devices available that are capable of reading the file. We assume that today’s text file will be forever readable, but that may not be so. Today’s popular or dominant formats may simply be echoes of the past in the future. A hardcover book, however, we know is likely to be readable 500 years from now because we are reading books from 500 years ago.

(Remember this video of a monk being introduced to the wonders of the new-fangled gizmo called the book?

Even if this is how it has to be done 500 years from now, it at least can be done, which is something that cannot be said with certainty about an ebook file.)

In balancing the pluses and minuses of to ebook or to hardcover, I come to the conclusion that for gifts I will give, I will give hardcover books, not ebooks. eBooks send the wrong message and not enough of the message I want to send. Even for gifts to me, I will designate hardcover desired. I want to be reminded regularly from whom I received “this” book and for what occasion. I do not want the gifted book to simply become another file among my many thousands of already-owned ebook files — a file that once read will most likely never be seen again. I want to know that someone cares and be reminded that they care.

What are your gifting plans?

November 26, 2012

The Merger Apocalypse

It has been a while since I wrote about ebooks and books in general. For the most part, nothing new or exciting has been happening once you move away from the hardware side of things. But the merger of Random House and Penguin is a comment-worthy event.

In the past, consolidation has been very bad for professional editors. Somehow these mergers and purchases needed to be paid for and with supposedly declining sales in bookworld, the way to pay for the merger was to cut expenses. The primary way to cut expenses has been to cut costs in areas that consumers do not see or notice until too late, thus primarily in editorial and book production.

Past consolidations have resulted in layoff of editorial and production personnel and in lowering of fees paid to freelance editors. In preconsolidation days, there was competition for editorial services, so freelancers could easily raise prices. In postconsolidation days, competition has been greatly reduced, there are fewer publishers to compete with each other for editorial services and thus the (successful) downward pressure on pricing. Freelance editors have little place to turn when where there was once two there is now but one job opportunity (publisher).

The merger of Random House and Penguin, who combined will account for approximately 25% of traditionally published (as opposed to self-published) books, is likely to spur a second merger, that of HarperCollins and Macmillan (or perhaps it will be HarperCollins and Simon and Schuster), who combined will account for at least another 20% of that market. And when pricing for freelancers is set, it will be set companywide — it will make little difference which imprint of the RandomPenguin colossus a freelancer works for, the pricing will be fairly uniform, and increasingly depressed. Or so experience says.

I understand why the merger is occurring: somehow a company has to combat Amazon and Apple and the most logical way is to make it so that Amazon and Apple cannot ignore the publisher’s demands because neither can forego stocking 25% of traditionally published books. (And let us not forget that Amazon is working to build its own publishing behemoth as a foil to these publisher tactics.)

Yet there is another possibility. What if one or both of these megapublishers — RandomPenguin or HarperMacmillan — decides to combat Amazon and Apple directly? It strikes me that the way to do it would be to buy Barnes & Noble. Buying B&N would give them immediate access directly to consumers. They could set terms for distribution with their captive company (bring back agency pricing) and tell Amazon and Apple they, too, can have access to these books but on the same terms as B&N. It would put the publishers back into control quickly, and B&N could be bought cheaply — a couple of billion dollars ought to do it.

Another possibility, although one that would likely have limited success, would be for publishers to start a “first edition” club only for brick-and-mortar stores. B&M stores would be given the exclusive opportunity to sell to consumers collectible first edition-first printing-author signed hardcover books that come with an included ebook copy. If done smartly, it could be an incentive for consumers to enter a b&m bookstore. I think, however, publishers would blow it simply because they seem to blow everything else.

The bottom line is that just as these consolidations are likely to be bad news for editors, they are likely, too, to be bad news for consumers and for sellers like Amazon and Apple.

The consolidation of the publishing industry has been ongoing for 30 years. The problem is that there are fewer large publishers to consolidate today than 30 years ago. It strikes me that if the Justice Department doesn’t think that Amazon dominates the ebook retail market in the United States and that it never did, it would be hard pressed to oppose these consolidations or even the purchase of B&N by a combination of the megapublishers because their market position would be less than that of Amazon.

Are we in for interesting times in publishing? I think more worrisome than interesting. If book quality is noticeably declining preconsolidation, what will it be postconsolidation? If editorial incomes are in decline, how much more rapid will that decline be postconsolidation? If book prices are on the rise, how much faster will they rise postconsolidation?

The question that comes to mind, however, is this: Would RandomPenguin have come about if Amazon were not acting like the Wal-Mart of ebook world? I have no inside information but I suspect that the answer is no, the merger would not have been proposed. I think it is fear of the Amazon vision of the future that is driving this merger, with the final straw being the court’s decision to approve the settlement in the agency pricing case. That settlement gives publishers little leeway against Amazon in the absence of controlling a large enough portion of the market that Amazon cannot do without that portion’s product, which would be the case with RandomPenguin controlling 25% of the traditionally published market.

The more I think about the megapublishers joining to purchase B&N, the more I think it would be a smart move. There are a lot of ways that publisher ownership of the chain could effect cost savings, and with good planning, the physical stores could be made relevant again. More importantly, B&N’s online store is already a well-established and well-known destination for books for consumers, which would relieve publishers of having to create a new online presence and drive traffic to it, a difficult task. And, as noted earlier, it would provide leverage for dealing with Amazon and Apple.

What do you think?

November 21, 2012

A Humor & Musical Interlude: A Turkey Thanksgiving

Filed under: A Humor Interlude,A Musical Interlude — Rich Adin @ 4:00 am
Tags: ,

As we get ready to celebrate Thanskgiving — and a 4-day holiday weekend, Black Friday, and the beginning of the final Christmas shopping rush — I thought some fun would be warranted.

Since the original video, “I Will Survive,” was removed by YouTube, here is a replacement starring Daffy Duck in 1949’s “Holiday for Drumsticks” —

Next is “You Can’t Gobble Me”

And “U Can’t Stuff This”

Have a happy Thanksgiving!

November 19, 2012

Why is the Book Market Different from the Art Market?

The United States Supreme Court recently heard oral argument in Wiley vs. Kirtsaeng, a copyright case that deals with first resale principles. The gist of the case is this: Kirtsaeng bought textbooks in developing countries where the books sell for less than in the United States and brought them to the United States for resale. (Sounds like the pharmaceutical scene here in the United States: The same drug sells for multiple times more in the United States than in any other country in the world so U.S. citizens get the privilege of subsidizing pharmaceutical sales to other countries. The same is often true in the textbook industry.)

Wiley sued Kirtsaeng for copyright infringement and won; Kirtsaeng has appealed. Kirtsaeng’s defense was primarily the first-sale doctrine, which allows owners to resell, lend out, or give away copyrighted goods without interference. This doctrine is a prime reason why every ebook comes with terms of sale that state that what you are “buying” is a limited license, unlike with a pbook.

Here’s the problem as I see it: If Wiley wins in the Supreme Court, it will be the death knell of all markets for all goods except the primary market, which is the original transfer from manufacturer/copyright owner to licensee. In other words, we won’t own anything, we will simply be licensees subject to the whims of copyright owners. If we don’t own it, how will we dispose of it?

It has always been assumed that the secondary market for artwork is legitimate. No one has tried to put an end to Sotheby’s auctioning artwork that is still under copyright, which, thanks to Mickey Mouse, seems to be never-ending. It is this secondary market that is the value market. It is the market that lifts art prices (value) across the entire spectrum, in both the primary and secondary markets.

Yet this case could spell the end of such secondary markets except for goods that are outside copyright, which means not in our lifetime for currently produced artwork.

More importantly for artists, publishers, and authors alike, all art — regardless of form — that is still under copyright will plummet in value if capitalism works correctly. Why would anyone pay a handsome price for art that they cannot resell 10 years from now. Copyrighted works will have limited market value because there will be real market.

Isn’t this the fight we are experiencing with ebooks? Publishers cry about how piracy and discounting devalues ebooks, but it is really neither that devalues ebooks; instead it is the licensing scheme that intentionally prevents a secondary market that causes the devaluation.

Of course, the counter to that argument is that ebooks are the fastest growing segment of the book market; yet, it remains a small percentage of overall book sales. It may be the fastest growing but it is not yet the majority of sales.

And there is something deceptive about the “fastest growing” statement. What is not disclosed and what I would like to know is how do sales stack up once you eliminate all ebooks whose sales price is less than, say, $5.99, which is the price below which you rarely see the big publishers price their ebooks, and once you eliminate the ultra bestsellers that are trading on the current value of the author’s brand. In other words, I want to know how ebook sales of midlevel books being sold at $7.99 to $14.99 or higher compare to the sales of their pbook versions. I know I’ll never be given that information, but that is really the information we need to determine how “valuable” consumers consider licensed ebooks.

(It probably would also be worthwhile to eliminate from the equation DRM-free ebooks and ebooks that do not have a pbook version except via print on demand. Both skew the numbers. DRM-free ebooks, although technically licensed, are really viewed by consumers [and probably by many authors] as owned in the pbook sense of owned. eBooks that do not have a trade-style pbook version should be excluded because there is not a comparable option against which to test value.)

I suspect that the book industry’s rejoinder to the art market comparison is that unlike a Monet or Edlund painting, which is a unique creation not massed produced, books are not unique and so the secondary market plays no role in setting value. But that, I think, misconstrues what is the secondary market. The secondary market for books includes the paperback version, the remainder, and the used book markets. Each works, in conjunction with the number printed, to limit the primary market for books, which is the hardcover market. It is hard to charge $100 for the new Stephen King novel when a consumer knows that eventually the book will be available as a mass market paperback for a lot less, as a remainder for less than the paperback price, and in a used bookshop for the remainder price or less.

But if you eliminate some of the secondary market in an attempt to shore up value, I think you will fail with books because they lack uniqueness, the one thing that truly sets the art market apart from the book market. It is hard to claim a high value for a book that is available in the millions (it is similar to lithographs of a Renoir in the art market: the lithograph is significantly less valuable than the original painting because it is a replica, not an original, and because there are multiple copies). In the absence of a secondary market for books, consumers will see even less value in the books.

In the case before the Supreme Court, the market in question is the student market, which is a captive market for publishers. It is a market that traditionally has sustained high pricing but has done so because of a confluence of multiple unique factors, such as a requirement to use a particular book in a course. It isn’t a free market. But any decision the Supreme Court makes is likely to affect the whole book market, not just the student book market. Even though Wiley and its cohorts pooh-pooh the effects of a favorable decision on markets outside the student textbook market, I think it is being done with naiveté.

The end of the secondary market in all goods would mean a devaluing of all goods. Either the first sale doctrine is upheld or invalidated; it would be difficult, if not impossible, to fashion a rule just for the student textbook market. As one Justice wondered, how would we dispose of an automobile we wanted to replace because automobiles have numerous items that are copyrighted. We couldn’t sell that auto in the absence of permission from all copyright holders, a difficult task in the absence of the first sale doctrine.

Wiley and friends may regret this action should the first sale doctrine be abrogated.

November 14, 2012

The Business of Editing: Author Queries

What is the role of an editor? Aside from the usual things like correcting grammar and misspellings and making sure that sentences have ending punctuation, it is to query the author about unclear sentences, text that doesn’t flow, missing material, and myriad other nitpicky things that can change a so-so manuscript into next year’s Pulitzer Prize winner.

I’ve been editing professionally for 29 years. What I have noticed over those years is that certain author queries repeat themselves ad nauseum. I bet I’ve written “AQ: Please provide complete cite. Need to add/provide …,” a gazillion times over those years and I expect to continue writing that query in the years to come.

I have also found that clients want queries done differently. Most want them inserted as Word comments, but some want them placed inline (i.e., in the text) and in bold. What I want is to do what the client wants but as quickly and painlessly as possible. After all, the longer it takes me to write and place a query, the less money I make. Thus I use EditTools’ Insert Query macro.

I don’t often use the inline method of querying but when I do, the Insert Query macro makes it look like this:

…and according to Jones and Smith (1999), {[AQ: Reference not in reference list. Please add this reference to the list or delete it here.]} the experiment

As I noted earlier, I find that there are a lot of queries that get repeated; they are not project specific. For example, I find that I need to use this query often:

AQ: Recur/recurrence mean to happen again repeatedly; reoccur/reoccurrence mean to happen again but only once. Which do you mean here?

I also often need to use this one:

AQ: Do you mean e.g. rather than i.e.? When the items are only examples and the list is not all inclusive, e.g. is used. If the listed items are all the possibilities, then i.e. is used. If i.e. is correct, consider removing material from parens and making it a proper part of the sentence.

Imagine having to write these queries each time you want to ask the author about usage. It will take time plus you may have correct a typing error. It is much easier to have a query saved as a standard query and to call it up when needed.

My queries dataset currently has 84 “standard” queries. I don’t use all of them in every project, but these are queries that I have found that I use repeatedly over the course of time.

Authors often will write something like “Within the past decade….” I usually question such statements because most of the books I work on have a long shelf-life and the chapters themselves were written months before I see them. Thus the timeframe is uncertain. So I ask:

AQ: Using this type of time reference allows the time to shift. The shift occurs because the reference was made when you were writing the text but doesn’t allow for either editing and production time until publication or for the book’s expected several-year shelf-life. It would be better to write, for example, “since 2000” (substitute the appropriate year), so that the time reference always remains static.

As you can see, it would cost me a lot of time, and thus money, to write these types of queries with any frequency. Besides, isn’t it better to do it once? Don’t we prefer to copy and paste than to constantly rewrite?

With the Insert Query macro, I not only have the query in my dataset, but before inserting it into the document, I can modify it specifically for the matter at hand. I can either save the modified version to my dataset for future use or just use it the one time without losing the premodified version.

I’m sure you are wondering how I can quickly sort through 84 queries to find the one I want for the particular project. It isn’t as difficult as you think. First, the queries are spread over five tabs in the macro. So if I need a query that relates to a reference, I go to the Reference tab. Second, I can reorder the queries in a tab so the ones I make most use of in a particular project are always at or near the top. Third, if I do not need to modify a query all I need to do is click on it and then click Insert — a fairly fast method for inserting a query. I do not need to first open a comment dialog box; the macro does it for me when it inserts the query into the document.

Everything has to be weighed in terms of time and keystrokes. The more time and keystrokes that are involved in querying an author, the less money I make. Also important is that if I have to manually write a query like one of those above just three or four times in a manuscript, I will become frustrated. They are long, they are detailed, and they are prone to mistyping. By “standardizing” them with the Insert Query macro, I get it right every time I use the query. And it takes me no longer to create the original query than if I were opening a comment dialog box in Word and entering it there. All of the time and effort savings occur with subsequent use.

Here are a few more of my standardized author (and compositor) queries:

AQ: This is a single-author chapter. Please identify to whom “our” refers.

AQ: Please identify where by section title if within the chapter, by chapter if in another chapter.

AQ: Acronyms that are deleted from the text are either used fewer than 3 times in the text and are now spelled out in the text or do not appear in the text.

AQ: This is chapter _____. If you are referring the reader to a specific section in this chapter, please identify where by section title and whether above or below, and delete the chapter number. If you intend a different chapter, please correct the chapter number.

COMP: Please make the letter J in J-shaped sans serif.

In today’s competitive editing world, it is important to find ways to increase efficiency and productivity. Tools like the Insert Query macro are an important part of the process to increase efficiency and productivity. EditTools is designed to increase my speed, efficiency, and accuracy, thereby increasing my effective hourly rate for editing.

November 12, 2012

The Business of Editing: Nondisclosure Agreements

Have you been asked to sign a nondisclosure agreement? In recent months, I have been asked three times to sign such an agreement, and three times I have declined to sign the agreement as provided.

If you have been asked to sign such an agreement, how carefully have you considered its terms, what those terms mean, and what effect those terms might have on your business? Based on conversations with colleagues, I suspect that most of the time the agreement is just signed and considered a requirement of doing business. For the most part, I would think the agreement is meaningless — after all, exactly what trade secrets are editors being made privy to? — but because such agreements could return to haunt me years down the road, I am careful about what contracts I sign.

These agreements are particularly problematic when they are with an offshore company. Citations to foreign laws and provisions to litigate in foreign (to me) courts are red flags — these are two things that I simply cannot agree to. I imagine having a dispute with a client whose NDA agreement requires me to litigate in Indian courts. I have no doubt that Indian courts will fairly apply Indian law, but what do I know about either Indian law or the Indian court system? And based on what I read about how long litigation takes in India, I’d likely be buried before any dispute was resolved, after having spent many thousands of dollars prosecuting or defending an action.

It is bad enough when I am asked to sign agreements that are governed by U.S. law and courts. My pocketbook isn’t unlimited; it is paltry compared to that of the company that wants me to sign the NDA.

Interestingly, none of the NDAs I have been presented with have ever really defined what I am not supposed to disclose. They use terms like “trade secrets” but they never clarify what that means. I make it a point — before signing — to ask for an exhaustive list of what constitutes a trade secret. I want to make sure that (a) it is information to which I am privy and (b) that I agree that it is a trade secret. More importantly, I don’t want to be ambushed. How can I know what not to disclose if you don’t tell me specifically that the information is a trade secret?

The NDAs also usually include a very broad clause that is a mother clause to another, somewhat subsidiary, broad clause. The first says that anything you invent or improve upon becomes the company’s intellectual property. The child clause says that you give the company permission to execute your name to any paperwork it deems necessary to lay claim to your inventions. Together, both clauses cover everything you have done from the day you were born and everything you will do to the day you die (when read in conjunction with the clause that says the NDA will continue in force even after your relationship with the company ends).

I suspect that no reasonable court would uphold such clauses, at least based on my knowledge of American courts, but the truth is, I have no idea what a court in India or Germany or Spain or Tunisia or Brazil or anywhere but America is likely to do — and even with American courts, all I’m doing is “educated” guessing. To find out what a court would in fact do, I would have to initiate a lawsuit, an expensive proposition.

Also missing from the NDA is any benefit to me. There is no guarantee of work; there is no payment in exchange for my signature; there is no reciprocal agreement that the company will not disclose my trade secrets. What is usually said is that they cannot hire me without the NDA, but that is not the same as saying they will hire me if I sign the NDA. And there is certainly nothing in the NDA that says that should they hire me, they will pay what I consider a reasonable rate. The NDAs are decidedly one-sided.

I have certain rules by which I conduct my business. First, any disputes have to be settled in the American judicial system under American law. I am an American editor with an office in America.

Second, I will not sign any agreement that gives the company the right to execute documents of any type in my name. I have no idea who these people are. My signature is one of the most valuable things I own; giving it away seems to me not to be a smart idea.

Third, I will not sign broad agreements. Agreements must be specific and limited. All of the NDAs are written for consultants who are going to come to the company and examine its books and procedures and make recommendations and improvements or who are being hired to create something specific to improve the company’s workflow. I’m not doing anything even remotely close to that. I edit books. I have no idea what the contract terms are between the companies I work for and their company or author clients. I make sure sentences end with punctuation and that flippant is spelled correctly. I don’t determine whether a book is worthy of publication or how many units to print or how large the marketing budget should be or whether the book should be digitized or anything else that remotely could be called a trade secret by a reasonable person. Thus the danger of these broad clauses and why extraneous/inappropriate clauses must be stripped from the agreement.

Fourth, I will not sign a contract that is so one-sided that it should be titled “Certificate of Indenture.” I must get something in return, something much more than a future promise of possibly some work. I will offer to sign an NDA for a specific project with the NDA limited to the specific project.

Fifth, I will not sign an agreement that gives a company the right to lay claim to things I create, invent, or improve upon that facilitate my doing my work. I have spent, for example, many thousands of dollars developing EditTools and my (patent-pending online) Max Stylesheet. EditTools makes my work go more smoothly and quicker; the Max Stylesheet both makes it easy for multiple editors to work closely on a project and for clients to access a book’s stylesheet years after I edited it. Both are tools for my business and marketing points. Yet under the presented NDAs, the companies could lay claim to these items and could execute documents to take title to them without compensating me.

I understand the need for NDAs. Afterall, no company would like to give a consultant access to its databases to find that the consultant is selling the data to the company’s competitors. But companies need to look at who they are asking to sign NDAs and not simply have a blanket rule that requires everyone to sign one. An editor like me who has no access to company information is not really a candidate for an NDA.

More importantly, I need to carefully read and consider any agreement presented to me. What are its implications? What if something does go wrong? What if nothing goes wrong but the company sues me anyway? How important is this company’s business to me?

The bottom line is this: The company doesn’t trust me enough to give me work without signing an Orwellian NDA but expects me to trust it to do what is correct and honorable when it deals with me. A handshake will serve me, but not the company. Doesn’t sound like a very promising relationship to me.

What do you think?

November 7, 2012

The Business of Editing: Wildcard Macros and Money

I thought the mention of money might catch your interest :). But macros, especially wildcard macros, and money do go hand in hand. Consider the following two scenarios I recently experienced in the references of a project (same project, different chapters).

In the first scenario, there were, over two chapters, nearly 500 references that the authors had formatted like this:

Agarwal, S., Loh, Y. H., Mcloughlin, E. M., Huang, J., Park, I. H., Miller, J. D., Huo, H., Okuka, M., Dos Reis, R. M., Loewer, S., Ng, H. H., Keefe, D. L., Goldman, F. D., Klingelhutz, A. J., Liu, L. & Daley, G. Q. (2011) Telomere elongation in induced pluripotent stem cells from dyskeratosis congenita patients. Nature, 464, 292-6.

In the second scenario, the references were formatted like this:

Adhami F, G Liao, YM Morozov, et al: “Cerebral ischemia-hypoxia induces intravascular coagulation and autophagy.” Am J Pathol 2006;  169(2): 566-583.

What they need to look like is this:

Airley R, Loncaster J, Davidson S, et al. Glucose transporter glut-1 expression correlates with tumor hypoxia and predicts metastasis-free survival in advanced carcinoma of the cervix. Clin Cancer Res 2001;7(4):928-934.

The money question is how to I get the references from where they are to where they need to be quickly and efficiently so that I make money and not lose money? The answer lies in wildcard macros.

For most editors this is a daunting task that needs to be tackled manually. In the first scenario, the editor will manually remove each extraneous period, manually move the year to precede the volume number, and manually correct the punctuation problems in the citation. In other words, most editors will spend a good two or three minutes — if not longer — correcting each reference entry. I, on the other hand, spent less than 30 minutes cleaning up these references and verifying the journal names.

It is not that I am a brilliant macro writer — I am not. A skilled macro writer is someone like Jack Lyon, the creator of the Editorium macros that so many of us use. Instead, what I am is a smart user of the tools that will help me accomplish what needs to be done. In this case, I am a smart user of EditTools’ Wildcard Find & Replace (WFR) macro tool.

WFR has been designed to make creating and using wildcard macros easy. You do not need to know how to write the macros, the tool will do it for you; instead, you need to know how to tackle a problem, how to break it down into its component parts.

The first step is to find a pattern. Remember that macros are dumb and work on patterns. I began by analyzing the patterns in the author names: Agarwal, S., Loh, Y. H., Mcloughlin, E. M. I realized that, for example, each of the first names was represented by an initial followed by a period and a space except that the final initial was followed by both a period and a comma (e.g., Y. H.,). Thus each group was separated by a period-comma combination. I also noticed that some authors had a single initial and some had two initials (and I recalled from other reference lists that some authors had three initials).

Beginning with the single initial name, I used WFR to create the first macro. WFR lets me select from menus what I want (e.g., the Character menu gives me several options, including Exact Characters, Exclude Characters, lower case, UPPER CASE, Mixed Case) and based on my selection, WFR creates the entry for me (e.g., choosing UPPER CASE in the first field inserts an unlimited [A-Z]@ into the field, which WFR turns into ([A-Z]@), the correct form for a wildcard). I do not need to know how to write the entry, I need only give the correct instruction. Thus, the first thing I wanted the macro to find was the surname, which is mixed case. So from the menu of options, I chose Mixed Case and unlimited (unlimited because some surnames are short and others are long and I need to cover all of them) and WFR created ([A-Za-z]@) for me.

I continued to make my selections by filling in the fields in the WFR form so that in the end the fields were filled in for me like this (the @ indicates any number of the find criterion; the {1,1} indicates a minimum of 1 and a maximum of 1 of the find criterion; and in #3 and #7, preceding the { is a space):

Field #    Find                Replace
1              [A-Za-z]@       \1
2              ,                         \3
3               {1,1}                 \4
4             [A-Z]{1,1}          \6
5             .                           \7
6             ,
7               {1,1}

The Replace fields are where I tell the macro what to replace the find with. Again, this can be achieved by making selections from a menu. The \4, for example, indicates that what I want is found in field #4. So the Replace information tells the macro that I want the found criteria replaced with Surname (#1), a space (#3), the initial (#4), a comma (#6), and a space (#7). WFR creates a wildcard find string that looks like this:

([A-Za-z]@)(,)( {1,1})([A-Z]{1,1})(.)(,)( {1,1})

and a replace string that looks like this:

\1\3\4\6\7

and when the macro is run, every author name that looks like

Agarwal, S.,

becomes

Agarwal S,

Clearly, this one macro is not enough to clean up all the variations. In fact, for the first scenario it took 11 macros just for the name cleanup. But this is another feature of WFR. After I create a macro, I can save it, with a lengthy description, in a file with similar macros so I can use the macro again without having to create it again. But to have to run 11 macros individually is time-consuming, so WFR will let me create a script that will run all 11 macros in whatever order I want them to run.

A script is easy to create — you just double-click on the macros you want to add to a script and then save them. The script can be added to or subtracted from at any time.

Ultimately, I created another set of four macros to deal with the author names in the second scenario. All of these macros — those for scenario 1 and those for scenario 2 — can be modified to deal with different patterns as the need arises. I will not have to keep reinventing the macros.

Another feature of WFR is that the macros are editable. If you discover that you should have included or omitted something, you do not need to recreate the entire macro; just choose to edit it.

And WFR lets you test the macro to make sure it works as you expect. (One note of caution when working with wildcard macros: It is best to turn tracking off. With tracking on, wildcard macros often produce bizarre results. Run the same macro with tracking off and everything works fine.)

It took me about 30 minutes to write all of the macros for both scenarios. Once I wrote them, however, when I came to the next chapter that needed the cleanup, the cleanup was done in less than a minute. Compare a less-than-a-minute cleanup time to the time it would take to do the cleanup manually. The wildcard macros make me money by making my work easy, quick, and efficient.

The beauty of EditTools’ Wildcard Find & Replace macro is that you do not need to be a macro guru to create these macros. You simply need to break the tasks down into steps and use WFR to create the macros for you. One important point that is worth repeating: Macros are dumb. They will do what you tell them to do even if they shouldn’t. It is still your responsibility as an editor to check the items. Macros do make mistakes.

If you haven’t tried WFR, you should. It is an easy way to delve into the world of wildcard macros. And unlike using the wildcard feature of Word’s Find & Replace, WFR lets you save the macros for future use and gives you a way to run several wildcard macros sequentially without having to create them.

November 5, 2012

The Holidays Gift List of Books

Filed under: Books & eBooks — Rich Adin @ 4:00 am
Tags: ,

The holiday season will soon be upon us. I don’t look forward to the holiday season like I did when I was a child because now I have to bear the expense and not just be a recipient. It was so much easier when I was a child!

But aside from the expense, the thing I hate/fear most is the question my children and wife ask me every holiday season: “What would you like for the holidays?” At my age, I already have everything I need and really want, and if something comes along that I want, I don’t think “that would make a great holiday gift for the kids to get me” and set the idea aside; instead, I buy it myself. Telling my wife and children what holiday gifts I would like is difficult and frustrating. I have tried suggesting that they donate to a charity in my name, but that has had only limited success. They do make the donation, but still insist I come up with something that can be wrapped and opened and is just for me.

This year I have decided to ask you for help in making my list. I would like book recommendations. When you make your recommendation, please give a short synopsis of the book, including its genre and whether it is fiction or nonfiction, and indicate whether it is available as an ebook, a hardcover, and/or a paperback. Please do not recommend any Amazon-exclusive books.

Getting recommendations from colleagues is a great way to be introduced to books I (and you) might not otherwise know about or read. Hopefully, your responses will serve as a basis for gift lists for others in addition to me. To get things rolling, here are two suggestions:

  • When General Grant Expelled the Jews by Jonathan Sarna (nonfiction; history; ebook, hardcover). In 1862, in the midst of the American Civil War, General Grant ordered the expulsion of 150,000 Jews from the territory under his command. Grant’s order was rescinded by President Lincoln a few weeks later, but the incident remains both little known and little discussed in American history.
  • The Emperor’s Edge by Lindsay Buroker (fiction; steampunk fantasy; ebook) is the story of Imperial law enforcer Amaranthe Lokdon and Sicarius, the empire’s most notorious assassin, and how they join together to prevent a plot to kill the emperor. Their reward is to become wanted themselves, although the emperor seems to have become smitten with Amaranthe.

I’m already putting together a list of nonfiction hardcover books that I’m interested in reading. On my list are these titles:

  • The Story of Ain’t by David Skinner
  • Heaven on Earth by Sadakat Kadri
  • The Second World War by Anthony Beevor
  • Henry Ford’s War on Jews by Victoria Saker Woeste
  • The Message and the Book by John Bowker
  • The Atheist’s Bible by George Minois
  • The Comprehensive History of the Jews of Iran by Habib Levi
  • On Politics: A History of Political Thought by Alan Ryan

I am also interested in a subscription to Lapham’s Quarterly, which looks like a very interesting “magazine” edited by Lewis Lapham, longtime editor of Harper’s.

What books do you suggest?

November 2, 2012

Preparing for Flight

Filed under: Uncategorized — Rich Adin @ 4:00 am
Tags: ,

The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, like the Star Wars movies, resulted in great ancillary moments of creativity from people not associated with the making of the movies. This video of preflight instructions from Air New Zealand is an outstanding example. Although anyone who has flown knows already of these instructions, the presentation in this video makes listening to them again a highly enjoyable experience.

Worth Noting: Cell Phones & Telemarketers

Filed under: Worth Noting — Rich Adin @ 4:00 am
Tags: ,

Beginning this month be prepared to be annoyed wherever you are if you have a cell phone with a U.S. carrier and number. This month, or so I have been led to believe, cell phone numbers go public and are being released to telemarketing companies.

Unfortunately, it means not only will I get at least three telephone calls every week from “Rachel” of Cardholder Services on my landline — and it doesn’t matter how many times I tell “Rachel” that (a) I don’t meet their criteria, (b) I’m not interested and wish to be removed from their calling list, and (c) that I’m on the Do Not Call list — both New York and federal — she still faithfully calls every week — but “Rachel” will now harass me on my cell phone.

I’ve filed numerous complaints against “Rachel” but they are a shifty (and sleazy) outfit. Their caller ID phone number changes almost weekly.

(The other frequent telemarketing call I get is from a company trying to get me to sign on for their electric service. I’ve pointed out numerous times that I would sure like to take advantage of their exorbitant rates [no I wouldn’t] but I, unfortunately for them, am not within their electric service area.)

And now I’ll get all those sheriff’s union and police benevolent charity solicitation calls everywhere I go. And now the politicians will be able to annoy me everywhere, too. I almost pray that our telephone system gets nuked just to stop the harassing calls.

But I’ve wandered. For whatever good it will do, to put your number on the Do Not Call list, either call 888-382-1222 or go to

The National Do Not Call List

Putting your number on the list will mostly block unwanted calls permanently. May the force be with you and not the harassers!

[Postpublication Addition — November 2, 2012]

Interestingly, I learned this morning after publishing the above that the FTC has finally taken steps to terminate “Rachel”. For followup, please see

“Hi, this is Rachel from RoboCaller services calling. Press 1 to be scammed.”

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