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Burnham's Celestial Handbook - Digital

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#1 mtnmedic

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Posted 04 July 2010 - 06:43 AM

Hi,

I'm a lifelong amateur astronomer and a big fan of the much-beloved Burnham's Celestial Handbook. What a treasure trove of information and great reading! I bought it when it first came out and I continue to read it this very day.

I've looked everywhere for an electronic copy of this fabulous book, in any format. Sadly, nothing of the sort seems to exist. Like several other books and references, I have wanted to put Burnham's Celestial Handbook onto my ebook reader and now my iPad, which I use in conjunction with my telescopes.

Because I haven't found anything, I'm engaging a project to put the Handbook into electronic format; PDF, epub and/or otherwise. However, this is copyrighted material and I know, being the owner of copyrighted materials, there are legalities involved. I would love nothing more than to publish and sell this as an ebook, from which proceeds could sent to the Burnham family, a charity or group closely associated with Robert. For me, it would be a labor of love, a celebration of the man, his life and his works.

I think a digital edition of the Handbook would be very popular, especially in this day of notebooks, laptops, e-readers and iPads. But how to go about implementing it into the publishing circles? I thought to contact someone who has current ownership of the copyright to this material to see if I could get the okay to conduct such a project and market it accordingly.

Another thing that I have thought about is that I remember hearing about Brian Skiff, of Lowell Observatory, and his work to update the Handbook, which he undertook back in 1996. I haven't heard anything of this project since. I can only fathom to guess such a venture to be overwhelming, if not daunting. I personally think the Handbook, as we all know it-with all of its imperfections-is just fine as it is. And rightfully so; it's literally a work of art. Therefore, going forward in my project, I would just be doing a straight transition of the material into digital form, without attempting any updates to the written material. Perhaps I could update some of the photos.

I'd like to get some input from folks here regarding this. Any leads for information, tips, suggestions, comments concerns and so forth would be most appreciated.

Sometimes I pick up one of the volumes and flip the pages, thinking..."My God...what am I getting myself into?" :tonofbricks:

Then I look at the very first page before the title page and preface of Volume Three, which contains a photo of the night sky framed by the dark silhouettes of tall trees accompanied by the following passage:

"O Night, sweet through sombre space of time...
All things find rest upon their journey's end-
Our cares thou canst to quietude sublime;
For dews and darkness are of peace the friend."
-Michelangelo.


Indeed.

#2 Reverie

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Posted 04 July 2010 - 07:24 AM

I can find only electronic copy via google books. It is the only way for me to have a look to the book.

I have no idea why the book never been reprinted after late 1970s, making the books almost unavailable or unknown to many people.

As the book is so legendary any reprint will surely become the best-selling of the decade. I can think only that the copyright issue is too complex making any new edition impossible.

#3 mtnmedic

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Posted 04 July 2010 - 07:50 AM

I agree with your observation regarding the stature of the book. It is my dream to bring it back to light so that people can fall in love with it all over again and others can discover it.

I'm going to have to look this up via google books to see what you found. I was able to find it as a rapidshare download in PDF format but it turned out to be image scans of the book, binding and all. Therefore, the quality was not that great and certainly nothing that was searchable, indexable or comfortable for long-period reading.

I wrote to Dover (the publisher) explaining my project and expressing my thoughts. Hopefully, I can get somewhere with them on it.

#4 BobinKy

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Posted 04 July 2010 - 09:38 AM

Guys...

Reading a digital copy of Burnham's Celestial Handbook is like eating a digital photograph of a nice steak. Just not the same. ;)

#5 rmollise

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Posted 04 July 2010 - 10:52 AM

Maybe not a bad idea. Dover owns the rights, though, and as you suppose would have to agree.

Mssr. Skiff gave up on updating _Burnham's_ quite some time back due to a variety of reasons, most involving the publisher, I recall.

Me? I don't think it needs updating any more than _The Friendly Stars_ does. ;)

#6 rmollise

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Posted 04 July 2010 - 10:55 AM

I can find only electronic copy via google books. It is the only way for me to have a look to the book.

I have no idea why the book never been reprinted after late 1970s, making the books almost unavailable or unknown to many people.

As the book is so legendary any reprint will surely become the best-selling of the decade. I can think only that the copyright issue is too complex making any new edition impossible.


Not the case. Burnham's is in print and easily available from Amazon.com.

#7 Crusader

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Posted 04 July 2010 - 11:03 AM

Not the case. Burnham's is in print and easily available from Amazon.com.


Yes, it's definitely still available. I bought the 3 volume set about a month ago. Brand new in paperback. It wasn't from Amazon, and if I remember correctly each volume was about $19 or so.

#8 helpwanted

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Posted 04 July 2010 - 11:37 AM

i've seen brand new perfect condition hardbacks in used book stores for $10 each... pleanty to be found.

#9 blb

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Posted 04 July 2010 - 11:39 AM

I have no idea why the book never been reprinted after late 1970s, making the books almost unavailable or unknown to many people.


Evidently it is still in print. They keep a set on the shelves at our Borders Book store. It is also available from Amazon.

Buddy :question:

#10 BobinKy

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Posted 04 July 2010 - 11:59 AM

I have been thinking of your willingness to do something to create a digital update to Burnham's Celestial Handbook. Perhaps developing a digital index would be something you might like to attempt. Another classic observing guide that could use an index is Chet Raymo's 365 Starry Nights.

. . .

Is anybody familiar with the issues (copyright and otherwise) of developing and publishing a digital file of an index for a book in print?

#11 bkruschwitz

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Posted 04 July 2010 - 05:34 PM

Michael,

According to the copyright page of Burnham's Celestial Handbooks, Dover Publications did not own the copyright, Mr. Burnham did. (The original version of the handbook was self-published.)

As I understand the 1976 Copyright law, because Burnham's 1966 copyright was in its first term (i.e., had not been extended yet) when he filed an extension in 1978, his copyright will last for 67 years beyond 1978 (i.e., until 2045).

Mr. Burnham died in 1993. The copyright might have been part of his estate, and it would take some detective work to locate the executor of the copyright now. Perhaps Dover Publications knows who controls the copyright, but I doubt it; Dover does not need to know, because they must have had a contract with Mr. Burnham permitting them to publish the handbook.

Nevertheless, I would start by sending an email to Dover asking if their contract with Mr. Burhnam gave them exclusive rights to publish the handbook in the U.S. If it did not and Dover has non-exclusive rights, then you might locate and get permission from the current executor of the Burnham estate to do an ebook publication.

Best wishes and good luck on this!
Bob

#12 Reverie

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Posted 04 July 2010 - 10:20 PM

Not the case. Burnham's is in print and easily available from Amazon.com.


I was told that the book was no longer in print and recently a reputable stargazer passed away, leaving 3 volumes and were sold at $56.5.

Anyway the shipping fee must be very high.

#13 Crusader

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Posted 05 July 2010 - 04:39 AM

The $19 I paid per book included free shipping.

#14 Reverie

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Posted 05 July 2010 - 05:24 AM

The $19 I paid per book included free shipping.


I know there is free shipping for those living in US and Canada. I don't know there is free shipping for those living in Hong Kong, Taiwan, China. :shocked:

#15 Crusader

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Posted 05 July 2010 - 06:30 AM

Reverie, I ordered mine from www.bookdepository.com They offer free shipping worldwide. Their prices are slightly more expensive than Amazon, but once you add the shipping costs they are much cheaper.

#16 rmollise

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Posted 05 July 2010 - 08:30 AM

Michael,

According to the copyright page of Burnham's Celestial Handbooks, Dover Publications did not own the copyright,


You'd have to research it to be sure, but I am under the _impression_ Burnham relinquished his rights. I know for sure he took many advances on royalties when he fell on hard times (nothing wrong with that).

#17 WOBentley

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Posted 05 July 2010 - 10:27 AM

If you do get this off the ground I'd be interested in it, especially in the e-pub format...
Love reading the hard copies, but it would be fun to take this with me to star parites etc. on my e-book (I own the "Nook" version)and much more "packing space friendly"

#18 mtnmedic

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Posted 05 July 2010 - 12:44 PM

Guys...

Reading a digital copy of Burnham's Celestial Handbook is like eating a digital photograph of a nice steak. Just not the same. ;)


True, but thats really the same for reading ANY great classic in electronic format. But let's face it, ebooks ARE a wave of the future (paper books will be around for a very, very long time...just not as many, I would suspect. I LOVE my iPad but I'll always have a few favourite books around).

In today's world, ACCESSIBILITY is the key in getting people to consume media. Ebooks are a but only another means of access to literature and creative works. I'd rather someone read an ebook than NO book at all. By this, I see the possibility that Burnham's Celestial Handbook could once again see the light of day and get exposure to a whole new generation of readers who are interested in astronomy that have ebook readers and iPads.

This book is for the ages and we can all agree it's a timeless classic that deserves reading, even if we have to tear the pages out and tack them up onto a bulletin board.

#19 mtnmedic

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Posted 05 July 2010 - 12:45 PM

I have been thinking of your willingness to do something to create a digital update to Burnham's Celestial Handbook. Perhaps developing a digital index would be something you might like to attempt. Another classic observing guide that could use an index is Chet Raymo's 365 Starry Nights.

. . .

Is anybody familiar with the issues (copyright and otherwise) of developing and publishing a digital file of an index for a book in print?


That's something I'm certainly considering.

#20 mtnmedic

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Posted 05 July 2010 - 12:49 PM

Michael,

According to the copyright page of Burnham's Celestial Handbooks, Dover Publications did not own the copyright, Mr. Burnham did. (The original version of the handbook was self-published.)

As I understand the 1976 Copyright law, because Burnham's 1966 copyright was in its first term (i.e., had not been extended yet) when he filed an extension in 1978, his copyright will last for 67 years beyond 1978 (i.e., until 2045).

Mr. Burnham died in 1993. The copyright might have been part of his estate, and it would take some detective work to locate the executor of the copyright now. Perhaps Dover Publications knows who controls the copyright, but I doubt it; Dover does not need to know, because they must have had a contract with Mr. Burnham permitting them to publish the handbook.

Nevertheless, I would start by sending an email to Dover asking if their contract with Mr. Burhnam gave them exclusive rights to publish the handbook in the U.S. If it did not and Dover has non-exclusive rights, then you might locate and get permission from the current executor of the Burnham estate to do an ebook publication.

Best wishes and good luck on this!
Bob


2045, eh? Well, I'll be 89 then. Still gives me some time. :roflmao:

I've already started the detective work, so to speak. And I've already written to Dover. Hopefully, we'll see something come from that. While the work I am doing on it is time-consuming, methinks the hard part will certainly be this bit in copyright and publishing.

#21 mtnmedic

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Posted 05 July 2010 - 12:50 PM

If you do get this off the ground I'd be interested in it, especially in the e-pub format...
Love reading the hard copies, but it would be fun to take this with me to star parites etc. on my e-book (I own the "Nook" version)and much more "packing space friendly"


I'm with you there. I'm leaning toward ePub (mainly for most ebook readers and the iPad) and PDF (mostly for computers) formats.

#22 mtnmedic

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Posted 05 July 2010 - 01:22 PM

For anyone looking to obtain Burnham's Celestial Handbook in its original hardback edition, particularly those of you who live in northern California (I live in the heart of the Gold Rush country myself) Trinity County Library in Weaverville, CA has it listed in their book sale page:

Library Book Sales-Complete Listing from Friends of Trinity County Library

It's the 6th entry from the top on this page. Item #004 with a link to buy it from them. According to the entry, it seems the volumes are in very good condition. Some details are provided.

#23 burb scope

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Posted 09 July 2010 - 10:40 AM

I scanned my 3-volume set of BCH into 3 PDF files. They total 1.9 + Gigabytes.
Each PDF is searchable, but some of the typesetting was a little crude, and the OCR routines didn't pick up everything.
I do not consider this a copyright violation because It is a digital backup copy of the volumes that I purchased, and I have never sold a copy of it.
I toyed with the idea of charging someone to do the same service on their volumes. Since I have to cut the pages apart to get the best scanning results, I didn't think that anyone would want to do that. However, the resulting digital media is searchable, is nice to work with, and you can look at the maps, diagrams, and text at the telescope with your laptop.
I bookmarked each constellation, and their lists of double and variable stars, as well as the lists of clusters, galaxies, nebula and descriptive notes. See an example screen of a search for M 8:

Attached Files



#24 mtnmedic

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Posted 09 July 2010 - 12:00 PM

I scanned my 3-volume set of BCH into 3 PDF files. They total 1.9 + Gigabytes.
Each PDF is searchable, but some of the typesetting was a little crude, and the OCR routines didn't pick up everything.
I do not consider this a copyright violation because It is a digital backup copy of the volumes that I purchased, and I have never sold a copy of it.
I toyed with the idea of charging someone to do the same service on their volumes. Since I have to cut the pages apart to get the best scanning results, I didn't think that anyone would want to do that. However, the resulting digital media is searchable, is nice to work with, and you can look at the maps, diagrams, and text at the telescope with your laptop.
I bookmarked each constellation, and their lists of double and variable stars, as well as the lists of clusters, galaxies, nebula and descriptive notes. See an example screen of a search for M 8:


Ah! Very nice! As I mentioned in my original and earlier posts, I considered making a PDF version as well as the ePub version I'm working on now. Guess I don't need to worry about that now. I figured for certain someone would've already done that, but only because he/she was brave enough to tear a copy of the book apart to do it. :bow:

The goal behind my project is to make it as beautiful and versatile as any eBook or iBook (as my primary thought was to get it onto the iPad) out there. The commitment requires that I at least make the minor corrections needed, such as for type spacing issues, spelling and punctuation, make some graphs/charts bigger as well as update some photos with sharper, color images except for those that really need to be black-and-white with respect to their historical significance. Obviously, indexing and searching are a must in any ePub document. THe big part is the formatting. Updating the information itself is a daunting task and I would preface the volume with a note for the reader to defer to more recent publications to get accurate data.

Again, very nicely done!

#25 burb scope

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Posted 09 July 2010 - 12:44 PM

An interesting way to update the work would be to insert links to updated information. For example, many of Burnham's binary star orbit diagrams stop before 1990, so it would be nice to see the original diagram and then be able to click on a link to be shown a current diagram.
The DSO photos were of limited quality, so yes it would be nice to link to better versions. I think that it would be important to preserve the original content, and look and feel of BCH, but allow access to updated info as unobtrusively as possible.
Having said that though, I would still like to see BCH in its original format available in a digital format.
I would be happy to GIVE my PDF copies to Dover Press if they would make it available at a reasonable price, and if they donate a portion of the proceeds to the Robert Burnham Jr. Memorial Project:
http://www.eastvalle...my.org/rbjm.htm
Perhaps a CN member or two with publishing clout could help get the ball rolling on this.






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