22 December 2010

New Book: Proving Up: Domesticating Land in U.S. History

Like most genealogists my "to read" list grows faster than my "have read" list. My husband's only flaw is that he is not independently wealthy allowing me to buy every book I want. Of course, if I could buy all the books I want I'd also need a bigger house.

For years I focused on how-to books to learn the discipline of genealogical research. Then I started focusing more on historical essays trying to understand why my ancestors did certain things and what their life was like. I just read a review by Michelle Mart of a book by Lisi Krall titled Proving Up: Domesticating Land in U.S. History. The review made me add this book to my read soon list:
The mythic power of western land has long dominated narratives of American history. Lisi Krall seeks to challenge this myth, untangling the narratives into their component parts of philosophy, economic systems, political decision making, and spiritual awe. Her slim volume, Proving Up: Domesticating Land in U.S. History, successfully argues that the frontier myth was constructed foremost from a capitalist imperative superimposed on material circumstances. (See more of the review here.)
The SUNY Press page for the book has a button that allows you to download the introduction and another button to preview some pages of the book. The hardcover is pricy for a genealogist's budget, but there is a link to "Direct Text" that allows a PDF to be downloaded. I haven't used "Direct Text" before. The link indicates you have online access to the book for 180 days for about 1/3 the price of the hardcover. A paperback version can be pre-ordered for almost the same price as the PDF. I'd much rather have a PDF version, but not if I can only access it for 180 days.

While trying to determine if the PDF file is locked after 180 days I found this 2008 article from The Exchange Online: The Newsletter of the Association of American University Presses. This article seems to indicate the 180 day limit is for online access, but that you can download a PDF that might not have a time limit. I definitely need to learn more about this before I order a "Direct Text" book.

It would be great if all of the university presses made PDF versions of books available. Many of the books published by university presses offer exactly the kind of historical information a good genealogist needs to better understand family history. In addition to dollars, shelf space also limits how many books I can own. Electronic books solve the space issue.

If you have experience with a "Direct Text" book and know whether or not the PDF file is locked after 180 days please leave a comment so we will all know. I'm all for electronic books and saving trees but not so big on tying myself to one e-book reader. I prefer an open format such as PDF that I can read on my computer or any reader I decide to buy in the future.

© 2010, Debbie Parker Wayne, All Rights Reserved


  1. I typically get most of my books from the library. Space and budgetary issues both factor in. However, for books I refer to often I still like to have an actual book. I usually get a book out of the library 3 times before I'm willing to buy it. I like the idea of pdf books but I don't think I am willing to rent books for 180 days. I'd rather have a pdf I can keep or else I'll take the trouble to get the book through inter library loan. So glad you brought this up. Interesting concept and sounds like an interesting book.

  2. I got a response from SUNY Press. The "Direct Text" PDF version of a book *does* have a 180-day access limit.

    As of 1 January 2011, the book I asked about will no longer be available as a "Direct Text." A PDF version will then be offered at the same price as the paperback edition. It "will be accessible all time, with no time out restrictions."

    The wording of the response isn't clear as to whether this applies to all "Direct Text" offerings or just the book I asked about. If it applies to all SUNY Press books this will be a good way to get scholarly, historical books without needing a new bookshelf and without being tied to a particular e-book reader. Now if University of Texas Press and others will also offer PDFs I will be very happy.