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Here's a bit of self promotion on a scale rarely seen on this list:
Nearly a year ago, I announced the publication of the textbook,
Paleontology of Higher Vertebrates: A Practical Guide, I wrote for my
dinosaurs class. Unfortunately, the original printing job was flawed,
and the job I did in formatting and layout left a bit to be desired, too.
Well, after redoing the whole thing, and then more delays at the
publisher, the revised printing is
ready to go; it was displayed at the Geological Society of America
meeting in Toronto at the Kendall/Hunt booth.
What is available now is a shrink-wrapped photocopied version, three-hole
punched, available for prospective adopters to examine for use as a
textbook. Kendall/Hunt is the leader in small-run textbooks designed for
specific courses, but they don't do the kind of speculative publishing
that the larger publishers do, so they are waiting to see what the
response is before actually going to press with the new version. The
upside here is that price is still unsettled, and volume can play a role
in keeping the suggested list price hopefully below $40. The print run
will be done easily in time for the coming Spring Semester. I've found a
number of typos and some rough passages in the preliminary copy, but
these will be fixed before we go to press. Kendall/Hunt believes this
text has good potential for outside sales, and we are working on a flyer
to send out to better publicize it. Of course, it will be available to
anyone from the publisher after the first of the year.
This is strictly a college-level (freshman) textbook for non-scientists,
however, not a coffee table book (for example, there is no full color
artwork; it's strictly black and white); I don't know how suitable the
general reader would regard it. The text has benefitted from feedback
from students on earlier, experimental versions of the same material. It
includes more than 400 illustrations and photographs; the total length is
377 pages, with pages designed for ample marginal notes. I gave the
publisher camera-ready copy--it would have driven the cost way up if they
had to do all the formatting and paste-up, what with so many
My students who were also familiar with Lucas' book (yes, I used to use
Lucas, and yes, some students had to repeat the course) appreciated the
ways I was able to improve on his presentation. I couldn't possibly ever
have used Fastovsky and Weishampel in my classes, and all I can say is
that my book is very different from either of those. The writing is more
conversational than in other paleontology texts; the level of the
vocabulary is probably most similar to that in Gary Lane's little book,
Life of the Past, but the prose is less stilted. Both anatomical and
jargon have been kept to a minimum; bones aren't named unless they are
critical to the topic at hand, and no taxonomic names are included for
critters that aren't described or illustrated in some way. I avoided
getting really wrapped up in some of the more involved current debates on
lifestyles and taxonomy of the sort often seen on this list, but I
mentioned many of the places where uncertainties lie.
In order, there are four introductory chapters; one on non-amniotic
vertebrates; one on primitive amniotes; one on lepidosaurs; one on
nondinosaurian archosaurs; five on dinosaurs; one on birds; one on
euryapsids; one on the K-T extinction; one on reptilian synapsids; one on
the origin of mammals (yes, I know--mammalian synapsids!); and one on
therian mammals. There is an extensive bibliography, part of it
annotated (the section on the more general books of the sort available at
bookstores), a list of web resources, and glossary. I didn't get the
gazetteer done that I wanted; it'll be included in subsequent editions.
Here are some excerpts from the Preface:
"This book . . . was written because of the need for a comprehensive,
user-friendly treatment of vertebrate paleontology at the introductory
college level. . . . To me, "user-friendly" means that the vocabulary is
understandable, serving as a tool for communicating ideas, as it should,
rather that being itself a stumbling block to understanding paleontology.
"All along, my overall purpose has been to make the world of vertebrate
paleontology accessible to the majority of people. My goal is to supply
practical information (hence the book's subtitle), information that can
be taken to a museum and used to identify the skeletons on display
depending on the labels in front of them. This goal was inspired by the
frequent publication of illustrations that do not show the characters
described, and descriptions that cannot be understood in absence of good
illustrations. Often, the critical features are invisible to everyone
practicing paleontologists who can dissemble the bones and literally look
at the skeleton upside-down and from the inside-out.
"I think that everybody ought to be able to enjoy paleontology. . . .
Paleontologists, however, often seem to be writing more for each other
than for the public. . . . I have avoided mentioning anatomical features
and taxonomic names that would mean nothing to the general reader, but
would serve merely to assure my colleagues that I know what I'm talking
about. . .
"The taxonomic categories and phylogenetic diagrams I incorporated into
the text are admittedly simplified; this book provides merely a starting
point. Readers who have the interest and aptitude can use my
presentation as a springboard to move up to more technical references,
such as the encyclopedic sources listed in the Bibliography, that are
technically more precise and comprehensive.
"To help both the student and instructor, each chapter begins with an
outline. It ends with a chapter summary, list of additional readings,
and a study guide consisting of important terms, concepts, animals, and
people. There are also review questions in different formats such as
true/false, multiple choice, completion, and discussion. At the
instructor's option, these can be torn out and handed in as homework
assignments, extra-credit opportunities, or take-home quizzes. I hope
that instructors who find discussions that don't seem to work, or study
questions that are difficult to answer in view of the information
provided in the text, will contact me with
suggestions for improvement.
The last paragraph quoted above tells it all. In reading the text now I
can already see places where improvement can be made. This will be an
on-going project, with continual fine-tuning, and, of course, updating as
new discoveries are made. It's already practically out of date, as I
can't really do a significant revision at this late date, and we
certainly have had a wealth of news during the last several months.
If interested in a review copy, you can contact Kendall/Hunt at
1-800-228-0810, or e-mail them at www.Kendallhunt.com.
Norman R. King tel: (812) 464-1794
Department of Geosciences fax: (812) 464-1960
University of Southern Indiana
8600 University Blvd.
Evansville, IN 47712 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org