Textbooks form the cornerstone of most student’s education and as a student it’s very common to have to read dozens of textbooks over the course of your time at college. But where do textbooks come from and how are they made? To answer this question you need to understand that there are a few different textbooks out there and each of these types has different origins.
Single Author Books
There’s a good chance that at least some of your textbooks are written by a single author, often an academic though not always. Some majors are more likely to base their education in these single author books while others use more conventionally understood multi-author textbooks.
Single author textbooks can really be anything. For example literature classes will use novels as their textbooks. Many liberal arts, anthropology and sociology classes will use single author books which are the result of fieldwork the author conducted and often single author books can be the result of a professor’s PHD dissertation. Even certain science classes will use single author books to fully expand on a certain subject or to approach a topic from a less dry and measured perspective.
Multi Author Books
The majority of ‘conventional’ textbooks are compiled and written together by multiple authors. Instead of seeking to present a single perspective on a topic these books attempt to be exhaustive and encyclopaedic in nature and cover the sum total of available information and departmental consensus on a topic. These are the types of books most people think about when they think about textbooks- thick volumes filled with facts and data and little interpretation.
Collected Volumes and Anthologies
Of course there are also plenty of textbooks which are compilations of smaller works by a wide variety of individual authors. A collection of essays on a single unified topic, such as film theory or a young adult fiction literature, epitomizes this style of textbook accurately.
Unlike other forms of textbooks these collected volumes and anthologies are generally put together by a single editor who may or may not contribute any of their own writing to the text but who curate the collection of writing from a selection of past and present authors.
The Textbook Creation and Printing Process
The actual process of making the textbook varies depending on which of the above styles of text is being investigated. Still, there is a general process which all textbooks go through.
All textbooks start with either an idea by the author/editor or an idea commissioned by a larger textbook manufacturer or university. That idea is then expounded upon by the author/editor who does the necessary research, writing and collecting to come up with their manuscript. That manuscript goes to an editor who reviews it, if it passes and doesn’t need major revisions it goes on to a copy editor who takes care of the specifics of spelling and grammar, and then it goes in for one final review and typesetting (interior design). Once the textbook passes all these checks it is finally printed and distributed to colleges and universities.