A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
From: Frank Reed
Date: 2020 Jul 29, 23:47 -0700
Never judge a book by its cover. And don't get me started about judging a book by its title! Why do we think this book might be worth our time? The editors names are certainly significant, but they didn't write this book. They were presumably groomed by Springer to add the weight of their names to this mis-titled publication. Would anyone care to suggest a more accurate title based on the description? Maybe something like "Notes in the History of Celestial Navigation"? No, that's still misleading, I think. How about "Notes in the Histories of the Nautical Almanac Offices"?
I was approached to contribute to this volume in late 2018. The process struck me as odd -- it didn't sound like historical scholarship. But then you have to step back and look at the business model. I recognized a mercenary project that was destined for the university library milk run and explained that I would not work for Springer's "Library Profit Center" unless I was getting paid (I didn't actually say it so plainly --I merely said I would not be able to contribute unless paid for my work). That was the end of that. I did point Seidelmann and Hohenkerk to my nautical almanac chronology (available through the NavList archives for many years), and it got a brief mention in the completed work (*). I also suggested that they should ask Robin Stuart if he wanted in on the project.
I was amazed tonight --literally tonight-- to see that Springer found me, and their targeted advertising locked its radar on me while I was reading an innocuous and rather boring article about the elections in the US. I never look at the ads in web articles. But out of the corner of my eye, I spotted the word celestial, and whaddaya know! There it was: an advert for this pricey book, direct from Springer (see attached). Maybe I should buy it just because it has my website address in it. Or not...
* Wait, what? Completed work?? Did I buy it?! No, but an acquaintance in the publication process gifted me a copy, and I have read a fraction of it. It's not as awful as I feared. It's very much an "inside the house" history of the nautical almanac offices. That's worth something, and I will certainly read more of it. But it is not, absolutely not, a "history of celestial navigation". That grossly misleading title is Springer's product management engine at work.