When the work on The Publisher’s and Author’s Handbook was coming to an end, Arkady Miltchin sent us the manuscript of the book On Editing and Editors on which he has been working for many years and asked us to consider publishing it. The subject of the book was not an exact fit for our publishing interests, but the material turned out to be exciting and useful. We decided to turn the collection into a website which the author gladly approved.
The author sent us a number of Word files which were created to be published as a book. It meant that all texts were divided in sections and arranged chronologically. Searching for a text was to be done with the help of three detailed indexes: a subject index, a name index and a content index.
If a fragment was a coherent excerpt from the source text, it was not cut down in the collection either, meaning it could be of substantial length even when it touched upon several issues. On the one hand, several fragments were physically copied from one section to another which was required to make some long story appear coherent. On the other hand, the compiler wanted to avoid copying fragments over and over again and often referred the reader to fragments in other sections.
It took us a lot of time (we started in July 2009) to enter all the fragments into a database, restore formatting and proofread all the texts. During all this time Arkady Miltchin was sending us still new fragments, making changes to the section list, editing the texts and adding his own commentary. Twice we had to throw away a partially edited collection and start from scratch.
Even though the collection was originally conceived as a book, the fact that it had numerous interrelated fragments made it a perfect fit for a hypertext website. But in order for this to work, two major changes had to be introduced.
First, we cut long text fragments up in parts so that they could be referenced independently. Of course, it meant that there was to be no duplication of fragments: a website allows to structure the same fragments in a number of different logical sequences. Arkady Miltchin was very happy about this opportunity and quickly created a couple of new stories based on existing fragments.
In order to make the change easier for the author who has been working with books throughout his life, we created a metaphor of an assembled notebook. Each fragment can be seen as a separate page and for any query of the user—a last name, a keyword, a time frame or a section—a librarian chooses the necessary pages and assembles them in a ring-bound notebook. It means that readers get only those fragments that they need and none other.
But a hypertext website is even better than a notebook, since each page can have a link to a collection related to the page subject. Some fragments are referenced by 4–5, sometimes 6 index entries.
Secondly, we have recreated the subject index from scratch, as it was too detailed for the website with a full-text search.
The initial edition of the subject index contained more than 2700 entries (two and a half times more than the number of fragments at the time!), many of which referenced only one fragment. It was as if the author has created the list of all search terms that were of interest to him. Sometimes he even gave out the gist of an interesting fragment right in the index, for example:
New author requirements referencing an instruction that did not exist at the time of the initial manuscript handover
Clearing up obscure points in manuscripts due to the author referencing the circumstances understandable to his or her contemporaries, but unclear to a translator living in a different country at a different time
Replacement by Goslitizdat of a rare portrait of Chekhov discovered by K. Chukovsky and especially suitable for his book about the author by a common ceremonial portrait reprinted numerous times without the author’s permission
Documents required for an author of scientific and technical works to present the works for publication as a bureaucratic redundancy
Ill-founded or ideologically biased rejection
of U. German’s script “Son of the People” by Lenfilm, which was successfully staged by the Theater of Comedy after having been remade into a play by the author.
Principles and criteria for valuation of a manuscript
by Gosizdat based solely on critical response in the press, evaluated by M. Gorky as follows: “The state which does not allow an artist to selflessly devote himself to the job for which he is destined by his very nature, such state should go blind.”
Liberal editing by the editorial board
of the “Soviet Warrior” magazine
of an excerpt from the novel “Life and Destiny” by V. S. Grossman which wrongly attributed the editorial preface to the author.
Overall, the subject index in its first edition could have been published as an interesting book in its own right, but was completely unsuitable for use on a website due to this extreme level of detail. Besides, index structure did not relate to section structure, which introduced additional difficulty.
By this time the editors have already read the book several times over, gaining enough understanding of the subject to recreate a new, brief index which would use section names as top-level entries. The new index came out to have only 150 entries. But author’s work on creating the original index was not in vain: instead of going through all the fragments again and arranging them according to the index, entries of the original index were used to populate the new one.
In fact, we liked the new index so much that we decided to put it on the main page and make it a point of entry for the entire website.
One more thing. In the original text of the book the only fragments to have names were those that had names in original sources. To make reading easier, we asked Arkady Miltchin to give names to all the other fragments.
The designer receives the website that looks like this.
Creating a plain and nice design.
Adding a background, search bar and highlights for menu items. Typesetting a fragment.
Creating a favicon and a logo.
Trying stronger highlighting of menu items. Thinking about navigation through articles that can belong to several sections at the same time.
It becomes clear that the main page comes out nonfunctional, so we add entries of the subject index.
Slightly changing the grid, the logo, moving the navigation to the right, working on the details.
Thinking about section highlights.
Collapsing large section names.
Making the final touches and sending it all to technologists.