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Hardin and Knopp Publish New Textbook: ‘Biochemistry – Essential Concepts’

Chuck Hardin

Chuck Hardin

Editor’s Note: Drs. Chuck Hardin and Jim Knopp recently published a new textbook/workbook with Oxford University Press (2012, ISBN 97 80199 765621, website: Chuck described the process of publishing a book to Biochem Blogs.

So we wanted to publish a book? We had no idea what we were getting into. It turned out that developing, contracting and completing a textbook required way more than just writing the words. When viewed in the rearview mirror, it was more like pursuing and completing a research project.

Oxford really puts their authors through the ringer. For example, the book is full of illustrations. In fact, completing the composition process involved extracting 843 figures from the manuscript, documenting them, then sending them to the composition editor, who inserted all 843 figures into the officially composed print version. Whew!

Pursuing the contract involves developing and submitting a detailed proposal, including 5 to 7 sample chapters, essentially the same as writing a grant, including the “preliminary results.” Coming up with those chapters in the first place involved many rounds of use in the classroom and review sessions. Many, many refinements were made with the ultimate goal of capturing a clear and succinct set of explanations and exercises.

Once completed, the materials were sent to a dozen professors around the country, who wrote 1-2 page reviews and scored the likelihood of success (much like a grant review panel). The results were then presented to a board at Oxford University. Because Oxford University Press is a non-profit educational company, each manuscript must be approved by panel composed of Oxford professors, assuring that it was truly a work of original scholarship. The day it happened felt like the day one’s NIH/NSF study section meets (bullets of sweat). The conclusion was positive (whew); however, many details regarding the writing and figure composition had to be remolded to take advantage of the reviewer’s comments. Many full days and late nights led to the (ostensibly) finished manuscript. Um, not yet!

Next, Oxford sent it out again to about a dozen new reviewers to score the product. Another round of edits occurred and about 20 new figures were composed. At last, the manuscript was resubmitted and deemed finished … well, not yet!

At that point, the OUP editors carried out two rounds of line edits to identify and delete typos, incorporate slightly altered phraseology, etc. When done and the pages were settled upon, the entire text was processed using a combination of computer and manual methods to produce an exhaustive, two-leveled index. Finally, the cover art was developed and submitted and text blurbs were written for the back cover. Ahhhh … finished!

The book is summarized in the following extract from the Forward : “This ‘field manual’ is intended as an efficient, pared-down aid to help students assimilate the key ideas. It presents a self-contained 16 week course, at a level that will help students proceed successfully to professional and medical school course work. … In one concise volume it contains (a) a textual summary of the essential information distilled from a standard encyclopedic biochemistry textbook, and (b) relevant review questions and sample tests with answers. BBL thus serves as a complete and self-contained handbook, notebook, and study guide. Since BBL presents material in the same sequential order as most biochemistry textbooks, it may easily be used alongside another text. The content in BBL is intended to provide a backbone. It is designed to assist students in the learning process by presenting to them a clear, pared-down presentation of the basics together with problem-solving and review tools.”

The following comments by the reviewers appear on the back cover.

“Biochemistry: Essential Concepts fills an important void in the repertoire of biochemistry textbooks. As a supplement it is perfect!” – Ales Vancura, St. John’s University

“An excellent supplement to traditional one-semester biochemistry texts. It distills the essential elements of biochemistry into short segments, allowing students to get the major points without getting bogged down.”- Christine Hrycyna , Purdue University