6 Useful software tools for textbook authors

Software ToolsIn a recent discussion about software tools for textbook authors in the Academic Writing & Publishing discussion circle in TAA’s online member community, anatomy and physiology textbook author Kevin Patton shared six software tools that he uses when writing his textbooks in addition to MS Office, a few tools from Adobe Suite, and FileZilla for FTP transfers:

1. Goodsync file synchronization and backup software. I have a network drive in my home office that keeps a backup of my writing files that reside on my “working” disk drive. That backup happens in the background periodically throughout the day using Goodsync software. I also set up a nightly backup to a cloud drive (iDrive, but there are many others). ALWAYS back up your files frequently. I say this from tragic experience. [Read more…]

Maintain an open ‘ancillary idea file’ for your textbook

TextbooksAs an author of several textbooks and ancillaries over a couple of decades, Kevin Patton, professor of Life Science at St. Charles Community College, shared the following valuable textbook writing tips on TAA’s Textbook Authoring listserv:

“Keep a file open on your desktop as you work on the textbook. As you ‘think about’ ideas for the ancillaries, jot them down in your open “ancillary idea file.” No matter how good your memory is, you’ll forget those brilliant insights when the time comes to implement them.

When I do this, I usually set up a skeleton outline of chapter numbers/names (if I’m fairly confident it won’t change much) or an outline of major topics and subtopics that I’ll be covering in the book. When you have an idea for that chapter/topic, you can simply drop it right into the correct location in your idea file–thus keeping it organized as you go.

Also, include some general headings for global, nonspecific ideas that may occur to you. For example, headings such as Question Types, Terminology, General Study Tips, etc., can help you sort out those ideas that might apply to the whole supplement (or all chapters).”

Kevin Patton hosts two textbook blogs: The A&P Professor and The A&P Student.

The value of blogging about your textbook

Kathleen Almy

Kathleen Almy

As a supplement to a February 2012 TAA webinar, “The Benefits of Blogging About Your Textbook”, presented by Kevin Patton, TAA created a group in the social media site LinkedIn to allow participants to interact with both Patton and each other prior to the webinar.

This special LinkedIn group spurred some terrific discussions and insight from other TAA members, such as Kathleen Almy, associate professor of mathematics at Rock Valley College in Rockford, Illinois.

Almy is piloting a new developmental math course called Mathematical Literacy for College Students related to Carnegie’s Quantway initiative, and is blogging about the book being written for it and the course pilot, in her blog, “Rebel with a Cause”.

Following is an excerpt from a discussion by the group in which Almy answers some questions about her blog posed by other group members: [Read more…]