Wrapped up in books.

Posting here has obviously been sparse lately. While this space is hardly going dark [Imagine the thought of me ever shutting up!], I can now tell you why the frequency of posting is going to get worse before it gets better. You see, people are actually paying me to write stuff. No, I’m not just talking about Chronicle Vitae. I still hope to make my once-a-month quota there and post links here (like my last one, the link to which I haven’t posted until now). I’m talking about two actual, honest-to-God publishers.

The first will actually be my third refrigeration-related book, after Refrigeration Nation and Refrigerator (which is with the editors right now). Happy as they are with my earlier work, the Johns Hopkins University Press has commissioned a deeper look at the American ice industry between 1880 and 1930. It will be called How We Used to Get Ice. Rather than a monograph (which I did already), this will be a textbook-style narrative describing the many (mostly simple) technologies that the American natural and artificial ice industries relied upon until the electric household refrigerator finally put them out of their misery. This is all part of my accidental strategy to make the most out of my thirteen years of research as much of the stuff that ended up on the proverbial cutting-room floor for Refrigeration Nation really is worth a book of its own. Moreover, the great thing about Johns Hopkins is that they actually edit your work! I am a much better writer for the Refrigeration Nation experience and expect to learn much more writing for them with a different audience in mind.

What’s that you say? You’re here for the edtech, not the ice? Well, I’ve got something for you too! Way back during the Year of the MOOC, my friend, colleague, fellow Princeton, NJ native and occasional guest poster, Jonathan Poritz, was trying to get me to pitch an anti-MOOC book. “I’m a historian!,” I protested. “MOOCs are just a passing fad!” Well, MOOCs were, but the automation of higher education certainly isn’t. Therefore, I finally said I’d do a book about that if JP agreed to write it with me. He is not only an expert on things I know nothing about (like STEM teaching and OER), he provided what I think is a most-excellent title: Education Is Not an App: The Political Economy of University Teaching in the Internet Age.*

Our publisher, thanks to Terry Clague recruiting me off Twitter (or at least really, really strongly encouraging me to put in a proposal) will be Routledge. What I particularly like about this choice is their international reach. American higher education may very well be too far gone, but if we can help save higher ed anywhere else in the world from those evil-natured robots then everything will all be worth it.

So you can see why posting here will be sparse. When I’m not teaching (three rather than four classes per semester going forward, thank goodness) or living my actual life, I’ll be alternating between one project and the other.** While the research is basically already done for both of them (my plan is not to plagiarize my old blog, but to use the links there as evidence for a new, longer-term analysis) anybody who’s written any book knows how time-consuming it can be. Therefore, for the foreseeable future I’ll only be posting links here for other work (like at Vitae) or blog when I really, really can’t shut up about something. Knowing me, that’s probably more than a few times in the not-too-distant future, but a lot less than in the recent past. I want to have the manuscripts for both books done in about a year, and shockingly enough (at least for an academic) I actually like to keep deadlines.

Nevertheless, keep your RSS readers pointed at this space and you may still get an occasional rant in pre-published form, and, of course, much more when the books are turned in. And of, course, there’s always the lazy person’s friend for projecting their thoughts into the world, otherwise known as my Twitter account.

* One of the things that cracks me up about this subject is the contrast with my online friend, the incomparable Audrey Watters. She’s a journalist who’s writing what we all know will be a kick-butt history of automated education. I, on the other hand, am an historian who aspires to write about a similar subject as journalism. To be exact, JP and I are thinking of this as a kind of guidebook for faculty who aren’t paying attention to edtech matters rather than a history or just one long rant.

** I even have another traditional historian’s project that’s going on hold until these two contracts are fulfilled. In the meantime, if anybody would consider introducing me to their agent, I’d love to show them what I have on that already.

Posted by Jonathan Rees

Professor of History, Colorado State University - Pueblo.

1 comment

If I had an agent, I already would have. You’re stuck with me just shopping int around my networks. There are a few publishers on the poets and writers one…

Your and Audrey’s book will make an interesting pair. I hope there will updates along the way. There is a definite need for a “guidebook for faculty who aren’t paying attention to edtech matters” as well as for those not doing their own homework and paying too much attention ot misinformation. That’s why I syndicate both you and Audrey to the FB page.

About refrigeration, I actually have a very early childhood memory of living somewhere in Louisiana where we had an actual icebox. In parts of the country (perhaps more in the south ~ I was too young to be taking notes) ~ refrigerator and icebox were interchangeable terms for a number of years. Ice houses stayed in business for a while renting lockers for frozen food ~ catch from hunting or fishing, anyone buying a side or quarter of meat. One in New Orleans became a ice house museum. NOLA ice houses were notorious for other reasons. Others became restaurants or nightclubs.

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